Mayor Richards looks back on first year in office | News
It was just a year ago that Tom Richards was sworn in as Rochester’s 66th mayor. So what has his first year been like?
Tom Richards agrees -- he's the most unlikely mayor of Rochester in modern history.
The former chairman of RG&E was lured out of retirement by Bob Duffy to be the city's corporation counsel -- the city's chief attorney.
Four years later, Duffy then tapped Richards to be deputy mayor when Patty Malgieri left and Richards then won an election against a formidable challenger - former Mayor Bill Johnson.
Tom Richards and News10NBC's Ray Levato spent a half-hour together in his office at City Hall. The Mayor thought it was unfair when asked to grade himself after one year in office. "Well, it's unfair in this sense. That's not the way to look at what I do. What is fair to hold me to is what kind of a job am I doing with respect to managing the city given the hand the city's been dealt. I really do resist the desire to sort of simplify it because I don't think it's a simple problem."
Richards rejects the complaints from some neighborhood groups notion that City Hall, under Bob Duffy and Now Richards, is more interested in downtown. "If I spent all my money in the neighborhoods and didn't do anything with downtown, I'd be getting it for not doing anything about downtown. If we went back 5, 6 or 7 years the biggest complaint in this community was the city had let downtown go. The fact of the matter is we spend much more time, money and effort in the neighborhoods than we spend downtown. There's no way this city is going to be the kind of place we want it to be unless we eventually bring downtown back. Now it isn't going to be downtown of 50 years ago. But it has to be successful."
Richards concedes there will be ups and downs with the Midtown site. "Part of what we have to learn as a city is that we are in a different set of circumstances here. And Kodak, Bausch and Lomb and Xerox aren't going to run in here and solve our problems."
When asked what he sees as his major accomplishment, it was dealing with the city's budget challenge that former mayors Duffy and Bill Johnson warned about. "And at least so far, I think we've done a good job of balancing that impact so that the city itself continues to function well, and we continue to provide essential services, and we continue to do these projects that we talked about in the neighborhoods."
On a lighter note, Richards showed his sense of humor when we asked about what has become his signature at City Hall -- his bold sometimes colorful suspenders that he wears everyday. "You know, they're certainly not a fashion statement but they're comfortable and so I wear them. I started a long time ago and I'm still doing it. And you ask why are you wearing suspenders? They hold my pants up. That's why I'm wearing suspenders."
Mayor Richards says it's too early to say whether this will be his only term or whether he'd stick around for another four years.