Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. led his final City Council meeting Dec. 15, 2015
Forty years to the day after he was first sworn in as mayor of Charleston, Joseph P. Riley Jr. stood before his final City Council meeting while in office. Over that time, he has served alongside 49 members of council and hundreds of city employees, many of whom filled City Hall Tuesday evening to honor the outgoing mayor.
In addition to adopting a resolution recognizing Riley’s years of distinguished service, the members of City Council surprised the mayor with two early retirement gifts — the first being a day of fishing on Charleston Harbor with his two sons. Councilman Keith Waring said the gift comes with one stipulation: Riley has to let his sons handle cleaning and cooking the day’s catch.
The next surprise came in the form of a $10,000 donation to the Charleston Parks Conservancy from the personal funds of current and former members of City Council. The money will go to establish a tribute to Riley’s 40 years of service to the city at Waterfront Park, recently renamed after the longtime mayor.
“Exactly what form the commemoration will take remains to be determined,” Waring said, “but we want it to fit seamlessly into the park and be an appropriate way to honor the service to our city of Mayor Joe Riley, whose leadership has touched every area of Charleston and whose vision created the incomparable Riley Waterfront Park.”
Riley also received a pin from city staff in recognition of his time as mayor — the same pin that he has personally given longtime city employees to mark their retirement. But Riley was not the only one honored at Tuesday’s meeting. City Council also recognized longtime Charleston resident Charles Shine’s years of volunteer work and dedicated the new West Ashley senior center to former councilman Louis Waring Jr. Members of council also passed a resolution to plant 15 trees at the Gaillard Center in honor of the victims and survivors of the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
“The citizens of Charleston have made their response together to this tragedy one of our finest moments,” Riley said in an interview conducted a week before his final council meeting. “The way they came together and provided support and love and healing, caring, this tragic event caused us to come closer together.”
Other than spending his time fishing, Riley promises that his retirement will be an active one as he continues to serve the city even after his time in office is complete.
“I’ll be working on the International African-American Museum next year, after I am no longer mayor,” Riley said. “I’m head of the building committee, and we’ll be working to raise money. I’ll also be teaching at The Citadel and the College of Charleston, so I’ll be busy.”