Camden Mayor Dana Redd said Wednesday that she would not seek a third term and offered an enthusiastic endorsement for City Council President Frank Moran, who is seeking to replace her.
"I kept my promise to our residents," said Redd, standing before City Hall surrounded by officials and speaking to a crowd of residents. "I kept my promise to our beloved Camden. Now it is time for me to keep my promise to my family."
Redd said she was proud of having returned accountability to City Hall after years of financial disarray and of improvements to the city's schools and public safety. She did not say what she plans to do after finishing her term at the end of the year, but said she wants to spend more time with her grandmother, brother, and nephew, and indicated that she was likely to continue working to better the city.
"I love Camden now, and I will love Camden always," she said.
Redd called Moran, a Council member for 20 years, her "rock-steady partner." A Camden native and director of the Camden County Parks Department, the 48-year-old Moran said he would seek to build on Redd's accomplishments.
"I've held titles like 'laborer,' " Moran said. "I know what it is to work hard and do what you have to do to make our city shine."
Three City Council seats are also up for election. The primary is in June.
A Camden native, the 49-year-old Redd was orphaned at age 8 and raised by her grandparents. She started working for the Camden County Board of Freeholders in her 20s and went on to serve as vice president of City Council. She was a state senator from 2008 through 2010 and has held seats on a number of Democratic committees.
Elected mayor of the heavily Democratic city of 77,000 in November 2009, Redd took office just as an eight-year state takeover ended in January 2010. She oversaw the tumultuous dissolution of the Camden Police Department, which resulted in the creation in 2013 of a regional county force that patrols only Camden. Officials have lauded the changes, though the city remains one of the most crime-ridden in the state. She also has overseen a takeover of the school system, which came under state control in 2013.
Redd has presided over the start of a development boom after passage of the Grow New Jersey law, which has used the promise of state tax incentives to draw corporations including Subaru of America, Lockheed-Martin, Holtec, and the Philadelphia 76ers' practice facility to Camden, and led to plans for a major mixed-use development on the waterfront.
The program rewards employers that invest in struggling cities as part of the 2013 Economic Opportunity Act. U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a South Jersey Democrat, championed the law as a state senator, saying tax incentives would lure employers to Camden. The state Economic Development Authority (EDA) has since promised more than $1.5 billion in credits to companies that agree to relocate to the city.
Redd has been an advocate for the incentives, which she and others say will strengthen the local economy. Some critics have complained that the deals largely involve the relocation of high-paying jobs from elsewhere in South Jersey and include no strategies aimed at addressing Camden's chronic unemployment, though some job-training programs have been formed.
Redd has also cultivated relationships with some of South Jersey's most prominent politicians and leaders, including Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III, the millionaire insurance executive whom Redd often describes as "the greatest friend Camden has ever had."
In recent years Norcross, Donald Norcross' brother and head of Camden's Cooper University Health Care, has leveraged his influence to push for the creation of the police force and pave the way for new charter-public hybrid schools in Camden. The waterfront project was put forth by companies with ties to Norcross, who this month announced plans to move his insurance firm there.
A number of county and state leaders responded to Redd's announcement with effusive public comments.
"America's greatest mayor transformed Camden from a municipality in dire straits with some of the nation's largest challenges to a city fulfilling its promise of improved public safety, enhanced educational opportunities and better access to economic prosperity," said Lou Cappelli, director of the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Sen. Cory Booker said: "Every story of resurgence starts with a strong leader, and Mayor Redd has faithfully served that role in Camden's rising."