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At an age when most people want nothing more than to slide comfortably into retirement, Thomas Richards embarked on a different path. The former corporate attorney and public company CEO entered the public sector in January 2006, becoming new Mayor Robert Duffy's corporation counsel.
After nearly five years in that position, Mr. Richards accepted another challenge: Following Patricia Malgieri's departure from the Duffy administration in October 2010, he became deputy mayor. And the following spring, with Mr. Duffy leaving for Albany to become lieutenant governor, Mr. Richards won a special mayoral election.
In his State of the City address this May, Mr. Richards thanked the citizens of Rochester for the opportunity to lead the city. "It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your mayor," he said. "Despite its challenges, this is most rewarding job of my career."
Now, with his upset loss to Lovely Warren in last week's Democratic primary and his decision not to pursue re-election on third-party lines, the mayor will not have a chance to serve the city in a new term. No doubt that's a great disappointment to him-and to many others. But he should feel no regret about what he has accomplished on behalf of the city.
From the very beginning, when he helped Mr. Duffy navigate a way out of the fast-ferry mess, Mr. Richards' wisdom and steady hand have steered Rochester's progress. His approach of "focus and finish" has kept all eyes in City Hall trained on results, not grand plans alone.
Redevelopment at Midtown and the Port of Rochester, the start of work on the University of Rochester's College Town, the transformation of Eastman Business Park-these are just some of the major projects for which he deserves much credit. And all he's accomplished has come despite events such as Eastman Kodak Co.'s bankruptcy and the sale of Bausch & Lomb Inc.
Mr. Richards' work as mayor is not finished; we have no doubt he will be focused over the next three months on all he can yet get done, as well as ensuring a smooth transition to his successor. It's not too early, though, to reciprocate his expression of gratitude: It has been a privilege to have him serve the city of Rochester.
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