Last, but not lame

Hermenia Gardner of Charleston congratulates Mayor Joe Riley after Monday’s inauguration ceremony. Riley, 68, has been the city’s mayor since 1975.

Tyrone Walker

Showing no sign of being a lame-duck mayor, Joe Riley was sworn in for a 10th and final term Monday, promising the "most successful four years" in Charleston's history while lashing out at critics of two projects he said are vital to the region's future.

"Interstate 526 must be completed and now," Riley told more than 600 people gathered in front of City Hall, where Broad Street was blocked off for the occasion.

He characterized opponents of the planned -- but stalled -- highway loop through Johns and James islands as standing in the way of advancement and safety.

"We do know that the community is shirking its duty to future generations if it allows a needed highway improvement to fall prey to a very small, vocal and well-funded minority's assault on what is prudent and careful progress in our city," Riley said.

Additionally, the mayor said opponents of the cruise ship industry here are out of step with the accepted mix of opportunities that have shaped Charleston for centuries.

"A new affluence has graced our city," he said. "And with that, there may be on the part of a few the misunderstanding that they live in or have moved to a place that is like a gated community -- affluent and exclusive. But that is not a great city."

Riley's comments came two months after defeating four long-shot opponents at the polls, collecting more than 67 percent of the vote.

Riley, 68, has been the city's mayor since 1975. Shortly before Election Day, he said this would be his last term in office.

Monday's ceremony drew some levity when his son, Joe III, was preparing to read the oath of office and wanted to double-check that this was indeed the finale.

"So, for the last time," he said atop the steps of City Hall, drawing some laughs.

During his final inaugural, Riley called for the expansion of literacy programs and the pursuit of all sorts of manufacturing opportunities. He said he will not rest until Charleston Harbor is deepened to 50 feet, to be suitable for the world's larger container ships coming through a deeper Panama Canal.

He also vowed to attack the flooding and drainage problems facing the city, and called the Gaillard Performance Center refurbishment a move toward creating "one of the great performing arts facilities in our country."

City Council members said they see no downside to working with a mayor whose time is ebbing.

Newly elected Councilman Keith Waring said he is ready to support and "attack" the economic objectives Riley is proposing, while Councilman Aubry Alexander said most of the council agrees on what to do in bettering the city, "but it's just how we're going to do it" where the differences surface.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.