Detroit's Cockrel not seeking re-election

Ken Cockrel Jr., former mayor and one of the strongest voices on the Detroit City Council for more than a decade, announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election.

Cockrel first was elected to the nine-member council in 1997 and served as the city's mayor for about nine months in 2008 when Kwame Kilpatrick resigned in disgrace after a text-messaging sex scandal led to criminal charges.

"I feel the time is right for me to seek new challenges, new opportunities, and new ways to help Detroit," Cockrel said Tuesday in a release. "I'm not going anywhere. I will definitely remain a staple on the Detroit scene. I truly believe that Detroit's best days are ahead of it and I'm eager to be a part of it."

The city's finances currently are under the control of state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr. The Council's power and responsibilities are diminished while the city is in state receivership.

Detroit's budget deficit is about $327 million, and it has more than $14 billion in long-term debt.

To cut costs, Mayor Dave Bing has proposed reducing the Council's staff in the city's 2013-14 budget. A city consultant's report has suggested that the council be made part-time and that 78 staff positions be cut.

Cockrel has been a calming influence on earlier City Councils which often argued and appeared dysfunctional.

He was involved in a spat during a 2008 public hearing with volatile ex-councilwoman Monica Conyers. Conyers, wife of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers, twice called Cockrel "Shrek" -- the animated ogre. The embarrassing exchange was broadcast nationwide.

Monica Conyers pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to commit bribery in a city sludge-hauling deal. She later resigned and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. She was released in December.

After receiving the most votes in the 2005 Council race, Cockrel was named City Council president. He was sworn in as mayor in September 2008 following Kilpatrick's fall.

Cockrel lost to current Mayor Dave Bing in a May 2009 runoff election, but was re-elected later that year to his fourth term on the Council.

Prior to his Council tenure, Cockrel served three years on the Wayne County Commission. He also worked as a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, Grand Rapids Press and the Cincinnati Enquirer.