Mayor Ain't Saying When He's Leaving, Only That He's Done What Needed to Be Done

At this very moment, Mayor Tom Leppert -- for now -- is taking part in the annual Elite News MLK Parade, after which he will fly to Austin for Governor Rick Perry's inauguration. When he returns Wednesday, there will be a budget workshop at which time City Manager Mary Suhm will inform the city council to expect a $41 million to $96 million gap "between revenues and expenses" during FY2011-2012. But overcoming that shortfall, whatever it is, won't be Leppert's problem, of course, given his announcement that he's not running for a second term.

He and I just spoke for a little while about that decision. And though he reiterated much of what he wrote on his website -- in short: He's done what he came to town to do, so why stick around? -- I also asked him The Other Question: Is he leaving before the bill comes due on the Trinity River levee fixes and the convention center hotel, among the high-profile, high-dollar projects that have come to define much of his tenure? His response? A laugh. Jump for more.

When did you finally decide not to run?

I've been coming to it over a period of time. There were two factors: We sat back and looked at what we accomplished, the issues and objectives we laid out four years ago, and we achieved and surpassed those. [He went on to list many of the previously mentioned accomplishments, including the reduction in crime, bringing AT&T to downtown Dallas, "shining a light on education" and creating "much more open and transparent government."]

When you were elected, had someone asked at the time if you were in this for but a single term, what would you have said then?

I probably would have told you I'd have been two terms, if people wanted me and if there were additional pieces I wanted to do. But the measure of success is what you've accomplished, not how long it takes to accomplish them. You should measure in terms of results. The things I thought were important we've accomplished. I'll also tell you, quite frankly, there are different things I want to look at. I've always done that. This was a very visible one, but I've always done that -- in the business world, leading community organizations, the chamber, and I hope to keep doing that.

When will you decide about whether or not you're running for the Senate?

I want to make it in the appropriate time, and I don't have a specific number of days or weeks or months when I will make that call.

Will you serve out your full term? Till June?

What I can tell you is I'll do what I do every single day when I get up in the morning: I'll give it 120 percent. I've always worked harder than anyone else.

Yes, but that doesn't say whether you're serving out the full term?

Every day I am here, I will work as hard as I always have.

Yes, but a lot hinges on your decision. Like, say, Dwaine Caraway will take over if you leave before June, and the mayor pro tem has said he's interested in being mayor. And if you leave early, he'll get the chance to sneak peek what Dallas would be like with him as mayor -- he'll get an opportunity other candidates won't.

That's a lot of hypotheticals. And I don't try to address hypotheticals. I feel comfortable giving you the statement I did.

I thought you'd announce after the Super Bowl. Though I assume you did it now because, well, candidates do need to file soon.

I thought it was a fair way to do it. This gives people the chance to consider what they might do. If you wait till the Super Bowl, you're literally right on the verge of the filing deadline. Given I'd come to the decision, this was a fair time to do it.

A lot of people have said and will continue to say that you're getting while the getting is good -- that you're leaving before the convention center hotel comes online, before the Trinity levee soil results come in, before the bill comes due.

[He laughs.]

That's not an answer. At least, it doesn't translate well to print.

Ya know, I understand the cynics and skeptics, but if you visit with the people of the city, as I have, it's widely thought we're in good shape, we've made accomplishments and done things people talked about for 20 years and haven't done. And most of all we've restored that can-do attitude. They have more confidence in the city -- the attitude has changed with regards to contracting, the ethics reform. You see an economy stronger than anywhere in the nation. I think the people of Dallas and this entire region are optimistic.

The city manager's about to tell the council: Expect another budget shortfall. Somewhere between $41 and $96 million. At least you won't have that do deal with again.

It's the same conversation every time. There's no budget I've ever done where there weren't more wants than available resources. People would love to have our situation across the nation. You'll look and see there are more wants than available resources, sure, but it's no different than any family's budget.

How much of your decision has to do with what's widely perceived to be a deteriorating relationship with the council, whether it was over the Love Field concessions vote or the fight over the tax hike?

You can match this with mayors across the nation and past mayors in the city of Dallas, and see the agenda we put forward, we've been very successful in getting that adopted.

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