Fresh off his reelection win, it was business as usual for Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, minus a few hours of sleep.
Tuesday night's celebration party at a local hotel lasted until 1:30 a.m., and with all of five of his children and a few of his nine grandkids waking up early for feedings, Wednesday morning arrived a little faster than usual.
Tecklenburg set aside time for some play with his youngest grandchildren visiting from Spartanburg, but then it was back to business.
After all, his mayoral horizon extends another four years.
On Tuesday, Tecklenburg received 61 percent of votes in a runoff election race against City Councilman Mike Seekings. In January, he will be sworn in for a second term, along with several new members of City Council who are expected to be more willing to work with him on everything from flooding to development concerns to issues of racial equity and more.
Waking up to a new term
Tecklenburg started Wednesday much as he would have if he hadn't just finished months of campaigning and two citywide elections in as many weeks. He met with the city's women's commission to talk about domestic violence, sex trafficking and emergency family leave, then he held an afternoon meeting with planning and development staff.
The roundtable of department heads and staff gave updates on the city's proposed archaeology ordinance and brainstormed a way to add an archaeologist on the city's payroll. There was feedback from the business community on the proposed construction ordinance — not great feedback — and an update on the rooftop bar ordinance proposal, and discussion about an overlay on Folly Road for sidewalk and bike access.
The day was mostly the same, aside from a few congratulatory text messages and conversations with new and remaining council members.
"There's truly no learning curve at this point, it's about execution of a number of well thought-out projects and strategies that have already been put in place now," Tecklenburg said. "I'm just looking forward to getting some stuff done."
The next few weeks will include budget discussions (the city's fiscal year begins Jan. 1), and newly elected council members will receive orientation training, including meetings with department heads and briefings on issues and projects.
New term, same priority
Asked about his priorities now that the election is all over, Tecklenburg said: "The water's No. 1."
Early last year, after three consecutive years of storms and heavy rains damaged neighborhoods across the city, Tecklenburg declared dealing with flooding and sea level rise as the city's top priority. The campaign only seemed to reinforce that, as most all candidates agreed on the urgency of the problem.
Tecklenburg said Charleston residents can expect to hear a lot of discussion — and see a lot of action — around flooding and water in the coming months. There's construction work set to begin soon on the Low Battery and anticipation of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to protect the Charleston's peninsula against future storms.
Tecklenburg feels that his first victory four years ago stemmed in part because he was the candidate who had worked for the city under Mayor Joe Riley and that gave him more familiarity with the workings of city government.
"That being said, the last four years I've gained a great experience in serving as the mayor and running the city, particularly with stormwater issues," he said. "It wasn't on the top of the list four years go. It was really over the last four years that it had risen to the top."
For traffic and transportation, residents can expect to see some movement on the bike and pedestrian bridge over the Ashley River. Thanks to $18.1 million in federal funding recently secured, that project will move along at a quicker pace, possibly opening around the time his new term comes to an end.
"We're also at an execution phase for a lot of the affordable housing projects," Tecklenburg said. "Kind of like the stormwater projects, we spent the last couple of years getting the money proposals together."
Challenges and celebrations
2020 should look like a year of action.
With the campaigning behind him and four new council members, Tecklenburg is hoping for a "better cohesion" of council. It's a fresh start, he said, not only for the new council members but also for those who will remain and serve.
Shortly after the election results were clear, both Seekings and Tecklenburg quickly made nice and vowed to work together.
Meanwhile, the next year will bring challenges, such as addressing racial disparities brought to light in a recent audit of the city's police department, which cited concerns over traffic stops and uses of force, as well as leadership development.
"The police audit, we're in a good position to really make some of those recommendations happen in 2020," Tecklenburg said.
But there will also be a celebration: "We've got our birthday party next year, our 350th. In a way, I view that as a great way to bring Charleston together."