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Tecklenburg to succeed Riley as Charleston mayor

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By Ashley Heffernan
Published Nov. 17, 2015
Updated Nov. 18, 2015

Fifty-five days from now, John Tecklenburg will become mayor of Charleston. It will be the first time in 40 years that the city is not under Mayor Joe Riley’s watch.

“I plan to roll up my sleeves and go to work for all the citizens of Charleston,” Tecklenburg said Tuesday night after election results showed he beat Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.

Tecklenburg, the city’s former director of economic development, was overwhelmingly chosen by voters during the runoff election. With 98% of precincts counted, unofficial results from the Charleston County Board of Elections show Tecklenburg with 13,513 votes, or 57.5% of the total, to Stavrinakis’ 9,986 votes, or 42.5%.

Rep. Leon Stavrinakis is joined by his family as he concedes the election for mayor of Charleston to John Tecklenburg. (Photo/Liz Segrist)Rep. Leon Stavrinakis is joined by his family as he concedes the election for mayor of Charleston to John Tecklenburg. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

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Tecklenburg narrowly defeated Stavrinakis in the Nov. 3 general election, as well, but neither received a simple majority, which forced the runoff.

“I’m proud that Charleston is the No. 1 place in this country to visit. I’m really proud of that. I don’t want to be No. 2. I don’t want to be three. I don’t want to be last. I like being No. 1,” Tecklenburg said during his victory speech at the Charleston Marriott downtown. “But I also want to be the No. 1 place for us to live, and from that simple statement falls all kinds of quality-of-life issues that impact this community and that we’re going to work on in the future.”

He said the city’s government needs a high standard of ethics, a centralized 3-1-1 phone number for citizens to call about issues and better tourism management.

“In West Ashley, we need some strategic economic development. West Ashley too long has been the redheaded stepchild of our city, and I’m here to tell you that I love redheads,” Tecklenburg said. “On James Island, we need to declare a peace treaty with the town of James Island.”

Tecklenburg said the city must manage growth, review zoning, build a senior citizens center in West Ashley, build a community center on Daniel Island, address infrastructure and flooding issues and promote cultural arts.

“This year was a defining moment in our city’s history with the terrible tragedy that we saw at Mother Emanuel Church on June 17, and this city showed the world how to respond to a tragedy with love, compassion and forgiveness. I mean we impressed the entire world,” Tecklenburg said, adding that the city should have solidarity with Paris in the wake of the tragedy that recently occurred there.

“It was so similar in a way to what we experienced here because it was an assault on humanity, an assault on civilization,” Tecklenburg said.

He also thanked Ginny Deerin, who ran for mayor and later endorsed Tecklenburg, and Stavrinakis, whom he called a “real public servant for Charleston.”

“I have to tell you that we really look forward to working together, Leon and myself, to make Charleston great,” Tecklenburg said.

Community leader

A graduate of Georgetown University, Tecklenburg was the founder and president of Southern Oil Co. until he sold it in 1995. In addition to working as Charleston’s director of economic development under Riley, the West Ashley resident served as president of the Rotary Club of Charleston and president of the Crisis Ministries homeless shelter now known as One80 Place.

He is currently president of S.C. Strong, a program that helps rehabilitate former offenders, substance abusers and the homeless, and is a commercial broker for Clement, Crawford and Thornhill Inc.

Bonnie Perry, a school librarian in Charleston who has known the mayor-elect for many years and attended his election party, said she voted for Tecklenburg because she said he is an “all-around good guy.”

“He’s such a nice, kind, even-tempered person,” Perry said.

She said she expects Tecklenburg to complete Interstate 526 and pause development of new hotels on the peninsula.

“I believe him when he says he supports it,” Perry said. “I really believe him when he says he’s working on these issues.”

Concession speech

Around 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, Stavrinakis walked through a crowded room to give his concession speech. Hundreds of supporters cheered as he made his way to the lectern inside the Historic Rice Mill in downtown Charleston.

“A few minutes ago, I called John Tecklenburg and congratulated him on being elected the next mayor of Charleston, and I told him that whatever capacity I continue to serve our community in, I am at his service to the benefit of our city and the people in our city,” Stavrinakis said.

He said the city has a lot of work to do to improve traffic congestion and maintain its quality of life.  He also thanked his supporters and his family for their time during his campaign.

“When we started this journey, the decision to run and the race we ran was all about this place we love, Charleston. As I stand here today, nothing about that has changed,” Stavrinakis said.

Riley’s transition

After he leaves office, Riley plans to return to his alma mater, The Citadel, where he’ll lecture in political science courses, write his memoir and sit for an oral history project to discuss his accomplishments and the issues he faced as mayor.

Riley did not endorse a candidate. But he did offer some advice to the winner.

“I think the big challenge is to get into gear, just to get settled in, comfortable and get into gear, and get things moving,” Riley said during an interview with the Business Journal earlier this year. “I’m not going to tell them what to do. I can tell them what we’re doing. They can get to know the staff and all of that. There’s a nice transition period that I think will help them get going day one.”

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter. Staff writer Liz Segrist contributed to this report.

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