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Elam opts not to run

November’s election is four months away, but Ironton voters can count on one certainty: The city will have a new leader in 2008.

Calling it one of the toughest decisions of his life, incumbent Mayor John Elam said Tuesday he would not seek re-election to the post he overwhelmingly won in 2003.

“This has been a long decision in coming. I looked at my political brochures of what I said I would do. I have done it,” Elam said. “I have accomplished those goals and objectives and I am looking forward to new challenges.”

Identifying just one or two things that led to this decision would be very difficult, he said.

“I love Ironton, it is just that things have changed,” said the Ashland, Ky., native who has called Ironton his adopted home and served on city council for two years before winning the mayor’s seat. The recent passing of his mother and father-in-law certainly contributed, he said.

Rumors have swirled for weeks that Elam was not going to seek another term, coming to the forefront recently when he and his wife put their Fourth Street home up for sale. Elam, who has a background in grant writing and management in the medical field, said he has not agreed to take any other job at this time, but that he would pursue opportunities that are best for himself, his wife Becky, and their two children, Aaron and Molly.

But Elam said his decision doesn’t mean he will be packing up his office early.

“I will fulfill my term as a resident of the city, but will then look at what’s best for me and my family,” Elam said. “I am not laying down. I’m not lame-ducking it. I am continuing to work, continuing our partnerships and expanding those partnerships. We are still working on economic development.”

Elam said he is most proud of getting grants for signage, receiving the highest amount of donations for the city during his term, the addition of five restaurants, moving closer to acquiring 25 acres of land formerly Ironton Iron, adding a tenant to the South Ironton Industrial Park, repairing infrastructure such as the streets and sewers and reviving the Center Street Landing project.

“During the past three and a half years, there have been lots of positive changes that we can see that we have accomplished,” Elam said. “We have promoted more economic development in the past three and half years than we had in the past 20. I am very pleased with what we have accomplished as a team. This is not something that I can do as an individual. It has been a team effort that we have used to accomplish these things that had not been accomplished in the past.

“The city of Ironton is poised for continued growth and development on the very near horizon. Residents of the city of Ironton will continue to see growth and expansion on the projects on which we have been working.”

Elam said it is working with dedicated employees and serving the residents that he will miss most, adding that he hopes people remember his legacy as one of positive change for the city.

“Knowing that my challenge was to leave things better than I found them, I have accomplished that,” Elam said.

Now that Elam and city councilman Butch Huff have withdrawn from the race, that leaves — as of June 1 — current councilman and former mayor Bob Cleary, councilman Rich Blankenship, school board member Bob Vaughn and citizen Leonard Battise as the only others who have picked up petitions for the post. The filing deadline is Aug. 23.