Mayor Herenton says he's turned down job offers

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said he has turned down offers of lucrative private-sector jobs in exchange for not seeking a fifth term, according to a newspaper report.

Herenton, 67, told The Commercial Appeal he's had three offers so far that were designed to keep him from running for re-election in October.

Herenton defeated incumbent Dick Hackett by 142 votes in 1991 to become Memphis' first elected black mayor.

"I never took this position of leadership to make money. I know what the salary is. I'm comfortable with that salary," Herenton said of his $160,000 salary.

He said he was offended by the offers, one of which was to take over his alma mater, LeMoyne-Owen College, a private historically black college.

Two other offers made in the past two months involved taking "senior-level positions in corporations," Herenton said, but declined to elaborate.

"For someone to offer me inducements - which to me borders on bribes because they're trying to influence my political decisions on the basis of (offering) positions and money to not run for mayor - I find that very offensive," Herenton said.

Political experts say Herenton faces a much tougher mayor's race after cruising through easy re-elections.

He has grown vulnerable after personal and professional missteps, including announcing in 2005 he fathered a child born to a former girlfriend half his age.

"To some extent longevity is an issue," said Memphis political consultant John Bakke, who has supported Herenton in the past, but is now working for City Councilwoman Carol Chumney's mayoral campaign.

"Even people who like the mayor and think he's done a good job are concerned about problems that stem from being in office so long," Bakke said.

But Herenton said he operates differently than other politicians.

"Some people operate on being liked. I operate on being an effective leader," Herenton said. "And I'm not trying to please everybody."

Click here to read the letter the Mayor sent in April stating his intentions to run for re-election.