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"I'm not going to run for re-election," Anderson told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday night before making a presentation on climate change at Salt Lake City's Main Library.
At the conclusion of his environmental speech, surrounded by his supporters in the green movement and many of his top-level employees, announced his decision after rattling off a list of accomplishments from his 6- years in office and heaping praise on a number of city staffers.
"Although it saddens me in many ways," Anderson said, choking back tears, "I've decided I will not seek a third term as Salt Lake City mayor." Anderson said he entered office as a citizen-activist and sees himself returning to that role.
"I've valued my time as mayor," he said. "I've come to love the people I worked with." When he concluded, applause and whistles filled the chamber, including a voice from the audience saying, "We love you, Rocky." Anderson told The Tribune he plans to serve the remaining 17 months in his term and is not worried about governing as a lame duck, even as he faces an often-combative City Council.
The mayor also said he has no jobs lined up. He added that he is interested in creating a grass-roots advocacy group, including environmental work. City Councilman Dave Buhler, a possible mayoral candidate, wasn't surprised by Anderson's exit.
"He's ready to make a change and do something else after eight years," Buhler said. "I wish him well in his new endeavors." Anderson was first elected in 1999. He ran as the anti-Deedee Corradini and trounced the former mayor's handpicked successor, Stuart Reid. In 2003, Anderson won re-election against former legislator Frank Pignanelli.
Besides working on the nuts and bolts of city operations - installing orange pedestrian flags, seeking a renovation of Pioneer Park, adding parking stalls downtown - Anderson also waded into controversy by joining a lawsuit against Legacy Highway, leading a protest against President Bush, advocating for looser liquor laws and laboring to enhance gay rights.
The mayor had been vacillating for months about whether to run again. He has said there are other challenges he wants to pursue, including grass-roots advocacy on human-rights and environmental issues.
Whatever he does, Anderson said he plans to continue as a loud, persistent and passionate advocate for causes he believes in.
"I invite you to come with me and make more noise," he urged the library crowd.
Tribune reporter Derek P. Jensen contributed to this report.