Mayor of Flint, Michigan resigns for health reasons

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Citing health reasons, the Mayor of Flint, Michigan, Don Williamson announced Monday at an 11:20 A.M. news conference that he was resigning from office effective Sunday February 15, 2009 at midnight. Williamson, age 75, indicated that he had multiple sinus infections and kidney stones since November 1 and his doctors wanted him to slow down by reducing his schedule.

Location of Flint (red) within Genesee County, Michigan (orange).

A number of events has lead to speculation about Williamson's resignation. His interim Police Chief, David Dicks, has been charged with defrauding the United States government stemming from the Federal investigation into his father's security company, City Security, and its contract with Career Alliance in January. Further, a recall election was scheduled for February 24. The snap selection of Michael Brown to be the new Flint City Administrator and his current City Administrator Darryl Buchanan to the non-City Charter position of "deputy mayor" last week Wednesday. Last Thursday a press conference, originally announced to explain the switch in City Administrators and the position of "deputy mayor," was canceled. And finally, on Friday the Interim Police Chief David Forystek was replaced with a new Interim Police Chief, John Keahey. This returned Forystek to department's traffic bureau.

Over the last weekend, Williamson denied the rumors. Buchanan was at the press conference while Brown did not attend.

Williamson is a multi-millionaire. He is majority stockholder and chairman of the publicly traded The Colonel's International Inc. (Nasdaq:COLO).

Williamson first stepped onto the political field by running for Mayor of Flint in 1991 but failed to get out the primary. In 1999 he lost to Woodrow Stanley in the general election. In 2003 election — the first full term election after the recall of Stanley — Williamson won the office of Mayor, while the city was still under state financial administration, succeeding Mayor James W. Rutherford into office.

In 2007, Williamson won a narrow re-election over Dayne Walling. He was only drawing a US$1 per year salary. A number of problems have cropped up since then including budget deficits, layoffs, and proposed drag strip.

Some leaders in the community that were surprised at his resignation. The Flint Journal quoted Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton as stating "I'm shocked." While County Sheriff Robert Pickell stated to the Journal that he was "absolutely shocked that the mayor resigned." Pickel added, that "with Darryl Buchanan working with Mr. Brown, it will be a good team."

City Councilor, and Williamson opponent, Scott Kincaid is quoted by ABC 12 News as stating that this "was a super-fantastic day" for the city of Flint. City Councilor Jackie Poplar said "Hallelujah!" to ABC 12.

According to the City Charter, Michael Brown as the Flint City Administrator will take over as Temporary Mayor, with no veto nor ability to remove mayorial appointees with out City Council approval. A primary will be scheduled for the May election date and the general election in August for a replacement mayor.

The recall was based on charges that Williamson mishandled city funds and misstated the status of the city's finances. An additional recall charge according to recall supporters was he disregarded public safety by moving to eliminate 59 police officers and nine firefighters.