The timing for this read could not be more perfect. In December, our former Mayor Joe Riley stepped down from leadership after 40 years as Charleston's Mayor. 40 years! That is crazy long.
The book hit the shelves in November so the ABC nation will be some of the first folks to read and pontificate on The Mayor.
Why this book?
I will admit that I pushed this book into the ABC mix. I have an interest in Charleston's history and I suspected that this book would be a great chronology of Charleston's last 40 years. I have been in Charleston for 8 years and have seen a ton of change, but I continually have heard stories from long time residents of Charleston in the 70's and 80's as a pretty dismal place.
What the book is?
Just like I suspected, this book is a great record of Charleston's last 40 years. The Mayor chronicles the highs and the lows of the Holy City.
Some of the High's include:
- The Mayor's role as a civil rights leader and the efforts led to remove the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina State House.
- The development of the Spoleto Festival and Charleston Place Hotel and their catalyzing effects on Charleston's tourism industry.
- The creation of great civic works like Charleston's waterfront park and The South Carolina Aquarium.
Some of the Low's include:
- Racial tension in the Lowcountry.
- The devastation caused by Hurricane Hugo.
- The Sofa Super Store fire that claimed the lives of 9 Charleston Firefighters.
- The most recent tragedy when 9 people were slain at the Emanuel AME Church.
What this book isn't?
This book is not really about a person. It is about a city. Hicks seemed to avoid getting overly personal on the Mayor and I don't feel like I know the man Joe Riley much better than before I read the book.
Throughout the book, Joe Riley is characterized as an almost flawless person. It would appear that his only flaw was loving a city too much. Either Hicks purposefully put Joe Riley up on a pedestal or the real Joe Riley is exactly how he is portrayed in the book: A humble passionate gentlemen with an unrelenting determination for family and his civic duty.
I suspect it is a combination of both.
Final Wrap Up
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to people interested in learning about Charleston's history as well as those interested in leadership. Throughout the book, Mayor Riley was personified as an extraordinary leader. He had great vision, made difficult decisions and carried the city through some of it's lowest times.
One of the most interesting things about the book was that the issues that we are challenged with today in Charleston very closely parallel the struggles of the past.
Throughout the book, Hicks highlights the tension over tourism, traffic and building development.
It is your lucky day. I recently sat down with Aaron Bowman of the Product and Process Podcast to discuss The Mayor. Check it out: