Mayor Alan Autry says he will not seek reelection, and will endorse a close friend and advisor to succeed him.
“Sometimes you just have to move over,” Autry said Wednesday, adding that while he had been the “right jockey for the right horse,” it was now time for someone else to take a turn.
Autry pointed out who he thought that person should be: H. Spees, chief executive of the faith-based One by One Leadership group.
“I believe this man has the ability to be the most effective mayor this city has ever had,” Autry said.
During his term in office, the mayor focused on improving education, creating jobs, reducing pollution and improving public safety.
Autry secured significant grants by attracting the attention of state and federal politicians and loosening purse strings in Sacramento and Washington. That money helped hire 92 police officers, launch a business park and buy the city eight clean-air municipal buses and a carrier to Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
“I believe we’ve turned it [Fresno] around,” he said.
Autry was known for his folksy ways -- he dropped to his knees during a visit to Washington to pray for U.S. troops in Iraq. He also will be remembered for raising utility rates twice and increasing or creating more than 200 fees for city services this summer.
In the November 2000 elections, Autry, a newcomer to politics, leaned on the public’s recognition of Bubba Skinner, the character Autry played in the television series “In the Heat of the Night,” to capture 61.47% of the vote.
He is still popular with voters, and only Sue Saigal, an administrator for Valley Pediatric Medical Group, has said she will enter the race for mayor whether or not Autry runs again.
The mayor said he may consider public service again, though he sought to dispel rumors that he would run for any of the state or federal offices up for grabs in the next election.
“I might also go back to making bad movies,” Autry said. “I had fun making bad movies.”