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Portrait of a Mayor



    Three days after announcing that he wouldn't seek a seventh term as Chicago's chief executive, Richard Daley is visibly calm. (Published Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010)

    Three days after announcing that he wouldn't seek a seventh term as Chicago's chief executive, Richard Daley is visibly calm.

    In a series of sit-down interviews with reporters Friday, Daley reflected on his decision, his family and his future.

    "Oh, it's the right decision," he said. "It was a difficult decision because I had the privilege of representing the people of the city of Chicago since 1989 -- 21 years, and you have to understand it's a privilege and that privilege can be taken away from the people, the voters. I knew in the last six months, I was just thinking about things. I've been here 21 years and I love the job -- I think it's the greatest job in America -- but I think it was just time for me."

    Daley said there wasn't a specific reason behind his decision to retire from politics, rattling off Chicago's failed bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the city's chronically-beleaguered budget, the economy or his his wife's health.

    When asked about the timing of his decision and announcement, Daley said it was a selfless move.

    "People have to get their petitions and all that, and I didn't want to put anybody in an undue position because of my selfish

    interest of just holding out for the end. And to me, I just want to give enough opportunities for people who maybe want to run for mayor to have enough time to organize their belief in running and getting people around them," he explained. "This is not my office. This is -- the people placed me in here."

    The 68-year-old mayor almost seemed proud of himself when he admits that he'd made his decision weeks ago and said it was the "best kept secret."

    "As President Obama said, 'How did you do that?' he said with a bit of a smile.

    Still, his announcement on Tuesday was an emotional one, and Daley said he made a point to not make eye contact with the small group of reporters that had gathered.

    "I didn't want to look at you because all of you know me, you have viewed me psychologically and every other way about my life and my career... you've been a part of my whole life -- the media out there -- whether you write good things about me or bad things or criticize, it doesn't matter."

    "I just wanted to make sure that the statement I made was short, not long."

    Daley admits that his decision not not seek re-election will have political implications statewide. For some, the gubernatorial and senate races are now on the back-burner because of the intense interest in what happens with the city.

    "I wanted to make sure that I gave everybody an opportunity early enough, and I was not going to be selfish about this, early enough they could prepare their preparations and their interest and starting off with their petitions. That would really be unfair if I'd held it all the way to the end."

    Indeed, his decision not to run for an unprecedented seventh term has opened the flood gates for potential candidates. It's a fact in which Daley finds solace.

    "There are so many good people out there that I hope they... if they want to run, they should run."

    And Ms. Daley? Will she be pleased that her husband isn't so busy all the time?

    "Oh, I don't know," he said blankly before busting out in laughter.