Dressed nattily with a blue blazer and silk rep tie and looking relaxed as he talked to reporters Friday in the Hall of Mayors before interim mayor Myron Lowery’s swearing-in ceremony, the man who would shortly describe himself from the podium as “former mayor Willie Herenton” discoursed briefly on the forthcoming October 27th election that will determine his permanent successor.
“I really would like to see someone who really has a passion for the city,” Herenton said. “I don’t want to see someone become the mayor because it’s a political stepping-stone.” He assumed the look of a man exasperated by the follies of others. “There’s some euphoria in the air about being mayor. This is a tough job. It requires a lot of managerial skill, some toughness. You’ve got a lot of people who think they can do it, but it’s a tough job.”
As he had in a sit-down interview with the Flyer several weeks ago after announcing his resignation, Herenton said he expected minimal public interest in the struggle among his would-be successors. “I’m not sure you’re going to see a lot of excitement about this mayoral race.” But he acknowledged that most of the declared contenders had “strong egos and a sense of determination that they can win” and said, “I don’t think we’ll see many dropouts.”
Unlike observers who see the forthcoming special mayoral election as a slam dunk for Shelby County Mayor a C Wharton, Herenton saw it as a free-for-all. “Conceivably, depending on the turnout, there could be a victory with, perhaps, no more than 30 thousand votes.”
Someone asked: Did that mean that a celebrity candidate like WWE wrestler-commentator Jerry Lawler had a chance? The ex-mayor regarded the question seriously. “Jerry ran in a race that I was involved in a few years ago  and got a substantial number of votes.” He repeated: “It’s kind of like a crapshoot. Anybody can win.”
Had he been surprised by city councilman Jim Strickland’s dropout from consideration?
Herenton shrugged. “I don’t know all the politics of what they’re discussing. I think he saw some polls, maybe.”