PONTIAC — Calling it an “unbelievable wonderful experience,” Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell will leave his position at the end of the month.
“Having served as mayor of the city of Pontiac for the last 10-plus years has been an unbelievably wonderful experience that I will never forget,” he said in a prepared statement to the City Council on Monday night. “I have been blessed during that time to work with a dedicated team of people who love the city of Pontiac and who go above the normal call of duty to make Pontiac a great place to live and a great place to visit.”
Russell has been a Pontiac resident for more than three decades, and served 17 years as an alderman before being elected mayor in 2009.
“He leaves big shoes to fill,” said City Administrator Bob Karls. “There has been no bigger ambassador for the city of Pontiac. He is known as the Mayor of Route 66 for a reason and is kind of a folk hero to some of those tourists.”
The council will have 60 days to name a new mayor.
“During my time as mayor, I have seen new business development in our city, as well as the expansion of several existing businesses,” he said. “I have watched our empty downtown buildings be renovated and now occupied with quality stores that attract shoppers from many surrounding towns and cities.”
Russell said he will soon be 72 years old and is at a point in his life where he wants to remain active as a volunteer for city projects.
“At the last mayoral election, I planned not to run,” he told The Pantagraph. “Then, we were told that nobody had filed the petitions to run for mayor, so at the last minute, we got the signatures together to get on the ballot, but I didn’t believe at the time that I would be complete the four-year term.”
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“I wanted to see that get finalized and we accomplished that and we have had the groundbreaking, so now is a good time,” he said.
Russell succeeded Scott McCoy, who now lives in Bloomington.
“I enjoyed working with Bob when I was mayor,” McCoy said. “He always had Pontiac's best interest at heart and we got a lot accomplished. I know, after he became mayor, that he really enjoyed Pontiac's growing tourism and meeting people from around the world.”
The tourism trade has grown under Russell, an accomplishment he is proud of.
“We saw how that can generate revenue and we jumped on it,” Russell said. “The development of the Route 66 tourism projects has brought people from around the world to Pontiac.”
“I don’t know of any other city that can say that,” he said. “We are very proud of that and all of the things that have been done in the past 10 years, have been a real team effort. I can’t say enough about the people that I have worked with.”
Karls said Russell’s work in land development will also leave an impact on the city.
“He was committed to the community, committed to the downtown and always provided great leadership,” he said.
Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow