Standing in front of more than 300 people, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder told his audience he doesn’t have time to waste.
“I will hit the ground running. I’m not going to study anything. I know what needs to be done,” he said, after winning the first at-large-mayoral race in Richmond since 1948. Wilder, who received more than 75 percent of the vote in each of the city’s nine districts, defeated incumbent mayor Rudolph C. McCollum Jr., and challengers Charles Nance and Lawrence E. Williams Sr.
Just after 9 p.m., a smiling Wilder appeared before the cheering crowd to thank his supporters and celebrate his victory.
“The people of Richmond have spoken,” Wilder said. “I will be a mayor of the people – all the people.”
The mayor-elect said he will work hard to improve all areas of the city.
“There is no district that I won’t be involved with,” Wilder said. “All you need to do is call. You did when I was governor.”
Some of the issues that Wilder said he plans to focus on as mayor will be improving schools, decreasing crime and providing economic stability to the city.
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, introduced the new mayor to the partygoers at the Democratic festivities.
“This is a historic day,” Kaine said. “We all wanted to pick our own mayor, and Doug got it over the goal line because he is so joined with their cause.”
Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond and the presumed Democratic candidate for governor in 2005, endorsed Wilder for mayor in September.
“He put principle above everything else,” Kaine said of Wilder who takes office Jan. 1, 2005.
“I will be announcing a transition team, probably next week,” Wilder said. “I’m going to look at a report from the Wilder-Bliley Commission to see what recommendations need to take place.”
In summer 2002, Wilder and U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. formed a panel of Richmond residents to look at changes in the city government. The panel proposed the plan that called for an at-large-elected mayor for the city.
City voters approved the plan and the Virginia General Assembly passed it. After Gov. Mark R. Warner endorsed the plan, the Justice Department rubberstamped it.
“The people of Richmond wanted a direct election” of their mayor, Warner said, explaining how citizens will be affected by the new plan.
For the past 56 years, the city council appointed the mayor from one of its nine districts and hired a city manager to run the city. Calvin D. Jamison, the current city manager, will remain in office until Jan 1, 2005.
Jamison, who attended the rally at the Omni Hotel, said the city manager’s role may change, but the focus still will be on the people of Richmond.
“It’s about the citizens and the quality of service,” Jamison said. “And (Wilder) is committed to that.”
Virginia Commonwealth University president Eugene P. Trani was on hand to congratulate Wilder, a distinguished professor in VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
“I think he’s got the right message right now,” Trani said. “He’ll be a great partner for VCU. He understands the importance of VCU to the city.”