Detroit Councilman Ready to Succeed Mayor Kilpatrick

September 4, 2008 - 1:29 PM
The man who will succeed Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has had months to prepare for the possibility of taking over as head of the nation's 11th largest city, and said last week that he was ready for the job.
Detroit Councilman Ready to Succeed Mayor Kilpatrick (image)

The man who will succeed Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has had months to prepare for the possibility of taking over as head of the nation's 11th largest city, and said last week that he was ready for the job.

Detroit (AP) - The man who will succeed Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has had months to prepare for the possibility of taking over as head of the nation's 11th largest city, and said last week that he was ready for the job.

A week before Kilpatrick pleaded guilty Thursday and said he'd resign, City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. was making the rounds and shaking hands at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

He wasn't a delegate, but the three-term councilman - who will become mayor within two weeks - was representing Detroit at the venue Kilpatrick wasn't allowed to attend because of bond conditions. At the convention, Cockrel said he would be ready.

"That's a charter-mandated responsibility I have as council president, and I'm prepared to fulfill it," Cockrel said.

Speculation about Kilpatrick's ouster from office began shortly after news of sexually explicit text messages between him and then-top aide Christine Beatty surfaced in late January. Under the Detroit City Charter, the council president fills any void in the mayor's office until an election could be held.

Cockrel will hold the office until a new mayor is elected. A special primary could be held within 90 days or in February, with a general election in May.

Cockrel, 42, was one of five council members who voted in May to ask Gov. Jennifer Granholm to force Kilpatrick out for misconduct. At the time, he said he voted for the resolution because "an extreme situation like this calls for an extreme measure."

While he has no political experience outside Detroit, he is seen as someone who brings an air of truth and honesty to an office that has lacked both at times over the past seven years.

His father, Ken Cockrel Sr., was a symbol of integrity during his years as a civil rights attorney and in his stint on the City Council in the late 1970s.

As Council president, Cockrel has preached openness in the board's dealings, presenting himself as a leader above reproach. That was in contrast to Kilpatrick, who had found himself mired in scandal after scandal during his nearly two terms as mayor.

As council president, Cockrel has brought a higher level of decorum over the past three years to the historically rancorous group. However, he has been criticized for his inability to control some of the personalities on the board, especially that of Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers. Conyers now takes over as council president.