UPDATED 05/04/11 7:18 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — At City Hall on Wednesday there was a lot of emotion. After 22 years in office, Mayor Richard M. Daley presided over his final City Council meeting. CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley has more on the farewell of Mayor Daley.
The mayor used his City Council swan song to wistfully look back and gracefully accept glowing tributes from aldermen, who, for the most part, over the years obediently carried out the mayor’s vision.
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“I’ve enjoyed public service for 32 years full-time, and I have no qualms about it. I enjoy people, and that’s all part of public service,” the mayor said.
From early in the day, the aldermen lined up for hugs, for photos and for autographs–all to mark the end of an era.
“You’ve been fair, you’ve been strong, you’ve been effective … an expression of modern urban mayoral leadership,” said Ald Ed Burke.
One after another, aldermen offered emotional praise for Daley’s 22 years of leadership.
“I’m not going to stay here long because I’m going to cry,” said Ald. Carrie Austin.
Others, like Ald. John Rice, who lost re-election, offered personal help.
“Knowing you haven’t driven a car in 27 years … I’m out of work. You’re out of work, so feel free to call.”
Daley joked the last time he drove himself was around 1980.
The mayor said his biggest challenge was winning over African-American voters, after the divisive council wars and Mayor Harold Washington’s death.
“I was determined that no way would they believe I was not their mayor,” Daley said. “I pledged to myself that every day, the block clubs, the community organizations, the church leaders, that I would make sure that I was their mayor.I worked, and worked on their behalf.”
And, his biggest risk was taking over public housing and public schools.
“This was the greatest opportunity to change our city. If i give a child education for life, they have independence for life,” Daley said. “They don’t have problems of poverty and hopelessness.”
And what drove him every day for 22 years?
“You have to have passion, you have to have honesty in office. You have to love the people.”
Before the session began, Daley laughed and enjoyed company and refreshments in the anteroom outside City Council chambers.
Daley has been the city’s longest-serving mayor. His term in office exceeds even that of his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, who served 21 1/2 years from 1955 until his death in December 1976. Now, the younger Daley, who recently turned 69, has some advice to share with the aldermen alongside whom he has worked for 22 years.
“They should have confidence in Chicago and the future,” Daley said. “America is a great country. We’ve been too negative far too long in the last 10, 15 years.”
Mayor Daley’s last day in office is May 16.