During his 33 years in office, Joseph P. “Joe” Riley, Jr. has spearheaded revitalization, weathered disaster, and worked to improve the quality of life for all.
In our recent interview with Mayor Joseph P. Riley of Charleston, SC, we proclaimed him the longest-serving mayor of any American city, having served 33 consecutive years. We were mistaken. The honor goes to Mayor Hilmar Moore, of Richmond, Texas, who has been serving continuously since 1949 and is running, unopposed, again this year!
Other mayors with long tenures include:
Leonard Scarcella, Stafford, Texas, 1969-present
John H. Land, Apopka, Florida, 1950-1968, 1971-present
Bruce Arnold, Valparaiso, Florida, 1964-present
Our sincere apologies to all the mayors we inadvertently slighted by our mistake.
On His Longest Night
“When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, there were about 15 senior staff and employees in City Hall. We’d prepared for the worst-case scenario and evacuated most of the citizens. During the storm, I looked out a ground floor peephole. I saw an enormous ball of roofing tin roll across the street and thought, ‘Someone lost their roof.’ When I went back up to the office, I heard water dripping on my desk and told the staff, ‘That was our roof!’ The next morning, when we opened the attic stairs, we could see the sky.”
On His Second Favorite City Next to Charleston
“After the first Spoleto Festival in Charleston, we went as goodwill ambassadors to Spoleto, Italy, where the festival started. It’s a beautiful little hill town in Umbria. The first morning, I took my morning run to the castle at the top of the town. When I got to the other side, there was a Roman bridge aqueduct that spanned the valley to a neighboring hill. It was an amazing experience to come around the side of the mountaintop and see that beautiful ancient structure. The view as I ran on it was spectacular—hillsides in deep shadow and beautiful, green mountaintops. It was truly one of my most memorable experiences.”
On His Most Indelible Image
“Once the Ku Klux Klan requested a permit to march here. We had to give them a parade permit and were pretty nervous—all kind of bad things can happen at one of their rallies. Reuben Greenberg, our police chief at the time, was African American and Jewish. He was wonderful. He told the Klan he would lead the march to protect them. I watched as this brilliant, courageous man led the Klan parade down Meeting Street. There was no trouble. That’s something I’ll never forget.”