Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, standing next to the podium he had used minutes earlier during a startling and merciless speech that stamped an end-date on his City Hall career, was relaxed.
The crowd, filled with people seeking verification they’d heard things correctly, slowly dissipated around him.
Some stunned attendees, including former Mayor Steve Daily, waited inside the ornate ballroom, hoping to catch a few minutes with the current mayor.
They’d just learned that in 11 months Goodnight will no longer spend weekdays in his third-floor office, where he's been for the past 11 years.
That revelation was made Monday evening inside The Hobson, when Goodnight called on the two political veterans, Democrat Kevin Summers and Republican Tyler Moore, who have announced mayoral campaigns to join him on the sidelines.
It came as a shock to nearly everyone in attendance.
But not all.
“A few people, not very many,” said Goodnight about who knew in advance of his decision to not seek re-election.
In the days leading up to his speech, Goodnight revealed to family and certain staffers he would not run for a fourth term. Others at City Hall found out Monday.
It was a speech Goodnight said he had help “wordsmithing” but had been “writing in my head for a few months.”
What remains unclear is his future.
“I’m not going to work for the city. … To be completely honest with you, I don’t even have a resume together. So I’ve got 11 months to figure out what’s the next chapter,” he remarked.
Goodnight, a former Steelworkers union president, is unlikely to have trouble finding work.
Instead he is focused now on finishing his third term and what is the longest tenure ever for a Kokomo mayor.
“My job is to make sure this year we get the hotel-conference center started. I won’t be around for a ribbon-cutting,” said Goodnight.
“Finish up some of the trail work along the creek. Those are probably the most visible things,” he added, later referencing upcoming AFSCME contract negotiations and Kokomo Beach amenities.
He doesn’t expect to be heavily involved in picking his potential successor, and said he will campaign for someone “only if they’re a good candidate doing the right things.”
Goodnight wants a leading candidate with “a lot of energy,” he noted, and for that person to be someone who can inject new ideas into City Hall.
“We have to keep evolving as a community,” he said. “And if I become part of the problem – because it does after a while, it’s these old grudges, these old personality conflicts, and it just becomes finger-pointing and name-calling and some of those things.
“That’s not good for the community. They need somebody to step up who is going to get away from all that.”
But for now, there is relief.
“Because I’m not running I don’t have to take my foot off the gas,” noted Goodnight. “I can keep going. So I’m happy. I have confidence that we’ll find somebody who can inspire some people.
“That’s what I hope.”
Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore, the only Republican mayoral candidate to emerge so far, was hit Monday night with personal insults and professional accusations during Goodnight’s speech.
Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore announced his candidacy for Kokomo mayor Wednesday af…
The sitting mayor said Moore’s “decade of elected office amounts to little more than a cynical joke, played at taxpayer expense.” He also asked Moore to disclose “how much county taxpayer money gets funneled to” the family-owned Moore Title & Escrow.
Moore, who rebuffed Goodnight’s call for him to step out of the race, responded in a statement sent to local media Tuesday morning.
“Like most of our community, I was surprised by Mayor Goodnight’s announcement that he is choosing not to run for another term of office,” said Moore. “Although we have not agreed politically on many of the pressing issues here in Kokomo, I was looking forward to a fair and respectful yet spirited debate with him on the concerns facing our citizens.
“On behalf of my family, I want to thank Mayor Goodnight for his hard work and dedication to our great city. We wish Mayor Goodnight and his family only the very best in their future endeavors.”
In a brief interview Monday night, Moore said Goodnight’s “attacks, accusations, discredits … do nothing to change the focus or tone of my campaign.” Still, he remarked Goodnight has “done well with what he was handed as a mayor.”
Summers to hold event
Mayoral candidate Kevin Summers will hold a kickoff event at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at The HuB Downtown, 105 E. Sycamore St. It will be the first public campaign event for Summers, who announced his Democratic candidacy on Dec. 11 in interviews with local media.
Summers will attempt to reshape the narrative surrounding his nascent campaign, which has been disowned by his own party amid accusations of misconduct during his time as a Kokomo Police Department captain.
“My campaign was moving forward despite what Greg decided one way or the other. I wish him and his family good luck in their future endeavors,” said Summers on Monday.
Tharp won’t run
Kokomo Deputy Mayor David Tharp will not run for mayor, he told the Tribune minutes after Goodnight’s bombshell speech.
“I’ll give you the same answer I’ve given you for years — I’m not running,” said Tharp.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight announced Tuesday that city development specialist David Tharp will replace current Deputy Mayor Randy McKay, who announced his retirement earlier this month.
Tharp became the city’s deputy mayor in June 2016, when he took over the post from current Kokomo Board of Public Works and Safety President Randy McKay.
The position and its responsibilities caused Tharp to step down as chairman of the Howard County Democratic Party. That role has been filled since by Kathy Skiles.
In accordance with state statute, the deputy mayor position is the first to succeed the mayor if he or she were to become unavailable for any reason. A permanent mayor would then be chosen by the representative political party.
‘Everything on the table’
The Kokomo Common Council has two members who have run for mayor — president Bob Hayes in 2007 and vice president Mike Kennedy in 1995 and 1999 — and a first-term councilman who found the spotlight during his early months on the council.
Elected in November 2015, Democrat Steve Whikehart revealed in January 2016 that he was working on legislation to amend the city’s human rights municipal code to include LGBT protections.
By March 2016, that legislation, sponsored by Whikehart, had been approved by the council and signed by Goodnight.
When asked Monday night whether he will run for mayor, Whikehart said: “Everything is on the table. There’s a lot for my family to discuss. We still have 25 days [until the Feb. 8 filing deadline].”
Hayes gave a similar, but less clear response in a text message: “Everything on the table???” He did not respond to requests for additional comment.
Kennedy said he will not run for mayor; instead, he will file re-election paperwork for his at-large council seat Thursday.