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Flint mayor leaving office after defeat, but not politics

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

After six years at city hall, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling only has a few days to clean out his office to make way for his successor. 

Walling lost his bid for a third term yesterday. Political newcomer Karen Weaver defeated Walling by nearly 2,000 votes.  She’ll be sworn in next week. 

For much of the past decade, Dayne Walling has either been running for Flint mayor or serving as mayor.

In 2007, he lost to former Mayor Don Williamson. In 2009, he won a partial term as mayor after Williamson resigned. Walling was elected to a full term in 2011.  

As he prepares to leave office, Walling is thanking his supporters and pondering his future. 

“I’m going to take a couple months to reflect on my time in service and the lessons learned,” says Walling, “and have conversations with a lot of people I trust on how I can continue to contribute to Flint and to Michigan’s recovery and turnaround.”

Walling says he plans to continue to be part of “public life” and says running again for elected office is a strong possibility. 

“I’m not ruling out a future run for mayor, or for legislature or another office,” says Walling.

The outgoing mayor is still stinging from his defeat this week.

Walling says he’s “frustrated” that his critics were able to convince many voters that he bore responsibility for the city’s drinking water problems. 

During an 18-month experiment, Flint got its tap water from its namesake river. The move proved disastrous, starting with complaints about the water’s taste and smell, and then escalating to problems with dangerously high chemical and lead levels. The crisis eventually became the main issue in the campaign.

Walling blames state and federal agencies for not doing their job to ensure the water met safety standards.  

He objects to those who lumped him with state appointed emergency managers who made decisions about the city’s water system. 

“That was done to score political points,” says Walling. “It wasn’t an accurate depiction. But campaigns are tough.”

Walling also knows it’s tough starting a new job as mayor. 

Karen Weaver will be sworn into office next Monday. She’s setting up a transition team to help her move into the new job.

Walling says when he became mayor he had more than a dozen top appointments to make to city hall departments.   

But the mayor says now much of that authority rests in the hands of Flint’s city administrator.

“The city administrator is responsible for all the city’s personnel,” says Walling. “It’s a different process.  This will be the first time the city will be going through this following an election transition. We’ll all be watching to see how it goes.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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