Baker reflects on career, calls for compromise in farewell address

By Tom Lehman 12:40am, November 29, 2012 - Updated 7:00pm, November 29, 2012
Watch Wilmington Mayor Baker's farewell address
Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker looked back on a career of more than 50 years of public service and politics as he gave his farewell address to city residents and lawmakers Wednesday night.

Baker, an Ohio native who served three terms in office beginning in 2001, was the longest serving mayor in the city's history. His political career began in 1972 when he was elected to city council, and he later became the first African American council president in 1984, a position he held longer than anyone else.

The outgoing mayor told the audience seated inside the city council chamber that throughout his career, he was sometimes "stubborn and outspoken," but always tried to be honest.

"I've never seen myself doing the politically safe thing or whatever the polls say. My job was never to tell people what they wanted to hear or the politically correct thing, but rather what is the right thing to do," he said.

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Baker says political opponents throughout government need to find a way to put aside their differences and find compromise more often.

"It is not about who is smarter, who has the right philosophy or religious belief. It's about human beings trying to make this country, this very city, live within a more perfect union," he says.

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Baker declared violence between men in the African American community a major issue that needs to be addressed and called for parents and educators to teach kids and teens to reject violence.

"The only way to stop it is to begin raising our children properly. We've got to properly educate our children and instill in them the noblest of values. The highest among them is that violence, which as a learned behavior must stop," he says.

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Baker had words of advice for his successor, Dennis P. Williams, saying that the mayor-elect needed to surround himself with the right people to help make the new administration successful.

"Good people working together make things happen. Negative people just stand on the sidelines and play Monday morning quarterback and get nothing done," he says.

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