Joe Riley brings lessons from City Hall to The Citadel and the College of Charleston

Former Mayor Joe Riley is greeted by city employees who came to say farewell to Riley on his last full day of work as mayor Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley could coast after leading the city for 40 years, but his job at The Citadel, speaking engagements and fundraising for the International African American Museum have kept him pedaling.

Riley, 73, said he took his family out to lunch after John Tecklenburg’s inauguration Jan. 11, then he went to work at The Citadel that afternoon. And since then, he has been serving as the military college’s first occupant of the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Endowed Chair of American Government and Public Policy. Riley graduated from the state’s military college in 1964.

Riley said later in January, he took a week off, and he and his wife Charlotte had a vacation in Jamaica. That’s where they spent their honeymoon, more than 49 years ago.

And unlike when he was mayor, he has more free evenings and weekends now.

He walks more and gets to the gym more often than he used to, he said. “I don’t take my health for granted.”

“I’m very busy,” Riley said, “although not as busy as I was at City Hall.”

He’s proud the people of Charleston kept him in office so long, he said. And he misses many of the wonderful people he worked with at the city. “But I’m happy,” he said.

He also said that many people sent him notes and cards when he stepped down, but he hasn’t had time to acknowledge them all. “I don’t have the staff I used to have,” he said.

At The Citadel, Riley so far played a key role in scheduling a Greater Issues Address with internationally acclaimed author and speaker David McCullough, and he has been a guest lecturer in several political science courses.

He will appear as a panelist for a discussion on the Emanuel AME Church shooting and the Charleston Strong movement during the 2016 Principled Leadership Symposium in March.

And on Thursday, he will appear with Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks for a discussion on Hicks’ book “The Mayor: Joe Riley and the Rise of Charleston.”

Bo Moore, dean of The Citadel’s School of Humanities, said Riley coming to The Citadel was a boon for the school. He considers Riley one of the college’s top alumni, along with former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings and former South Carolina Gov. John West.

Riley especially enjoys spending time with cadets, Moore said. And they appreciate being able to talk with him.

“We had high expectations, and so far, he has exceeded them,” Moore said.

Riley said he also will begin work this summer as an executive in residence at the College of Charleston’s Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities.

Kendra Stewart, a political science professor and the center’s director, said Riley will engage in research, teaching and service. He also will help create the structure and programming for the center, which will focus on leadership and urban design.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.