Charleston is blessed with many things; a fine harbor, friendly citizens and a robust economy are but a few. Perhaps we should count the strong field of mayoral candidates as another. As the venerable Joe Riley steps down after decades in office, our populace is called upon to choose the right person to guide our unique city into a promising but never-assured future.

As we survey the landscape, one candidate stands out from the group; he is civic leader and businessman John Tecklenburg. Mr. Tecklenburg crossed the Rubicon of Charleston politics when he decided to oppose the Beach Company’s plans to redevelop the Sergeant Jasper Apartments. He stood up to a longstanding ally and took a path of principle that endeared his candidacy to many Charlestonians. This is not the place to re-launch that tug of war, but it boiled down to a candidate showing clearly that he has ears to hear his constituents.

As described in this edition’s “Pluff Mud Chronicles,” our next mayor will be called upon to healing racial strife; we find Mr. Tecklenburg is best suited for this process. He was living in Orangeburg during the 1968 massacre; the event changed his family and how they addressed racial issues. A quick glance at his current endorsements — including Lonnie Hamilton and Lucille Whipper and leaders and members of the International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1422 — highlights his ability to be a bridge our community so desperately needs.

He and his wife, Sandy, are the proud parents of five grown children; he is at the peak public service stage of life, with the right combination of education and experience combined with an empty nest giving him the time to devote to the tasks at hand. As a person of a deep faith in his Catholic Church, Mr. Tecklenburg insists on living as a witness to his beliefs, and not one filled with empty piety. He carries an infectious joy and sincerity that are the trademarks of his personality, making him most likable and worthy of being trusted.

He understands a city is not an amalgam of roads and balance sheets, but rather a shared space for the betterment of its inhabitants. He knows Charleston’s keystone is our unparalleled livability: Thus it is the primary focus of Mr. Tecklenburg’s mayoral plan, entitled “Our Quality of Life First.”

Too often our neighborhoods have been victims of architectural novelty, brashness passing for boldness and structures unsuitable for a city with a dedication to design. For that reason Tecklenburg has pledged to revive the Civic Design Center and Design Review Board and connect new projects to their intended neighborhoods early in the design process. He will split the BAR to ensure that bad architecture doesn’t fly under our radar — or, worse yet, win a war of attrition against those who desire better. He also defends the BAR legally, asking the Beach Company to withdraw their lawsuit against the body that protects the special nature of the Holy City.

He calls for full implementation of the Tourism Advisory Committee’s recommendations for the city. He wants shore power for cruise ships and a strict cap on their size and volume. While seeking to make the city more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, he calls for vigorously enforcing traffic laws for the safety of all commuters.

Tecklenburg is willing to take bold stances to ensure our tourists, while treasured, never take over the city. To that end, he seeks a pause on both new hotels and new large events that can disrupt our lives as easily as enhance them. Policy review for horse carriages and tour buses is also on his agenda. Farther afield, he seeks strong enforcement of the Urban Growth Boundary to combat the sprawl threatening our rural heritage.

Tecklenburg is strong on the vital issue of the arts, seeking to engage the whole community, especially students, more fully in local cultural offerings. It’s hard to argue that anyone in the race appreciates the arts more than Tecklenburg, an accomplished jazz pianist. At this summer’s opening of the Steinway Piano Gallery in West Ashley, the Mercury watched him (quite unselfconsciously) sit down and start playing a beautiful melody directed at no one in particular. He was not a politician trying to steal the show; he was just an artist creating a little beauty for its own sake.

A jazzman’s spirit, a businessman’s brain and a true Charleston gentleman’s sensibilities — and a pledge to serve only two terms if elected. At a time such as this, when the reins of power in the Holy City will be turned over for the first time in decades, these are the kinds of hands citizens want holding them.

Both capable and caring, passionate and personable, Mr. Tecklenburg is a rejection of the hucksterism we have seen in too many political rings. He has laid out an attractive and comprehensive vision for Charleston and attracted supporters across the political spectrum. The roll of those endorsing John Tecklenburg is long and distinguished; to that list we are happy to add the editorial team of the Charleston Mercury.

 

 

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