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DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith will not seek 2nd term, says 'now is right time' to exit office

DeKALB – DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith announced Sept. 17 he will not seek a second term as mayor.

Smith, 76, who celebrates his 77th birthday this week, held a news conference at city hall, 164 E. Lincoln Highway, and said by the time he’d finish his second term, if reelected, he’d be 81. He cited his age and a desire for retirement “not quite as stressful” as a reason for his decision.

“Looking at the prospect of being 81 near the end of another mayoral term simply is not something that is right for the Smiths or, frankly, for the city of DeKalb,” he said, sitting next to his wife, Ging Smith.

Ging Smith echoed her husband’s words of thanks to residents.

“I want to reiterate my sincere thanks to the DeKalb community for the overwhelming mandate the electorate has given for the past four years,” she said. “It has been quite the journey, with some bumps along the way, but we’ve managed and faced them head on with fortitude.”

In 2016, Smith – a former executive director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation – announced he’d be running for mayor, ousting incumbent John Rey. He said when he ran in 2016, he didn’t think he’d win as he had no background in government.

The election isn’t until April 2021, though another elected official, Ward 1 Alderman Carolyn Morris, 36, announced her intention to run for mayor on Aug. 12.

With the recent announcements that social media giant Facebook is building a data center in the city’s south side, and will be joined down the road by Ferrara Candy Company’s distribution facility campus, Smith said he believes the city is in a good trajectory to continue its economic development.

“It has been so rewarding,” Smith said, adding he never considered himself a politician. “I’ve learned so much about government, about this community’s fine, upstanding people. DeKalb continues to be a place, a good place, where folks can live, work and raise their families.”

With seven months still left in the office, Smith said he came to the decision collectively with Ging.

“I love what I’m doing, this is great, but the time is now,” Smith said. “Given my age, given the fact that we are in a position where we’re going to continue to make great progress, and given the fact that I know my wife is certainly supportive with this decision that we’ve made, now is the right time.”

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