Updated 11:58 A.M.
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COLUMBIA — Darwin Hindman, Columbia's longest-serving mayor, announced Thursday morning that he won't seek re-election at the end of his fifth term.
Hindman's term ends in April 2010, and he said he would serve the rest of it "vigorously." He said that he had never intended to run again and added that he almost decided not to run for the re-election in 2007.
Hindman, 76, said he has attended about 360 council meetings as mayor, as well as countless work sessions and other city events.
"It all intrudes on your private life," he said.
Hindman, who has previously announced his election intentions in January, said he made the announcement earlier this time to give those interested in running for the office time to consider their decision.
"I think it will give other candidates a chance to think about it," he said. "I hope there will be a vigorous campaign."
Hindman said he hadn't spoken to anyone interested in mounting a campaign for the mayor's office. But his decision not to run was kept under a tight lid, he said. Other than family, he hadn't told anyone before Thursday's announcement.
Hindman said he's proud of his work in Columbia, particularly his work in parks, trails and recreation in the city. But he said he also hoped he would be remembered for his other work, including economic development.
"I'm proud of my record," he said. "I'm firmly convinced that Columbia is a better place than it's ever been."
Hindman thanked the city staff; the City Councils and city managers he had worked with; his law firm partner, Jean Goldstein; and his wife of 49 years, Axie Hindman.
"She has been an incredible, incredible supporter," he said. "She gets right down in the trenches."
Axie Hindman said at the news conference that she thinks her husband is sometimes recognized unfairly only for his work in parks and trails.
"I do not think he gets due credit for all the other things he's done," she said.
That said, Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill, who is in his first term on the council, said recreation probably will be the issue for which Hindman will most be remembered.
"Love it or hate it, I feel like his lasting legacy will be what he has done for the park system," he said, but added that Hindman has always led with the city's best interests in mind.
"At the forefront of every decision or ordinance he proposes is what he truly feels is best for the city of Columbia," Thornhill said.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, who is in the final year of his first term on the council, said he has come to respect the mayor and has learned a lot from him.
"He has the unique ability to take a relaxed approach to very complex issues, and what has come out of that has been food for thought for everyone," he said.
Axie Hindman said she has enjoyed Darwin Hindman's time as mayor but is looking forward to having more flexibility after he finishes his term.
"When you make your plans around council meetings, work sessions and ribbon cuttings, it's very hard to plan," she said.
Hindman wouldn't say exactly what his plans would be after leaving office, but he said he is unlikely to return to practicing law.
"I've got so many interests, it's a wonder I had time to be mayor," he said.
In addition to the mayor's seat, the Third and Fourth Ward council seats held by Skala and Jerry Wade, respectively, will be up for election on April 6. Wade is contemplating a bid for mayor and said on Wednesday that he would announce his plans in mid-September.
The filing period for council candidates will begin Oct. 23 and end in late January. The city charter dictates that those interested in running for mayor must collect at least 100 and not more than 150 signatures from registered voters in the city.
Those running for ward representative seats must collect at least 50 but not more than 75 signatures from registered voters in their wards. The petitions are subject to validation by the city clerk.