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Longest serving mayor of Charleston prepares to retire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — He’s the mayor with a microphone.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones not only leads West Virignia’s Capital City, he also talks about it on his radio show.

Jones, the host of “580 Live” heard on MetroNews affiliate 580-WCHS, is retiring as mayor.

First elected in 2003, Jones is the longest serving mayor of Charleston serving four terms. But soon, a new mayor will take over.

Mayor Jones is the host of “580 Live” heard on 580-WCHS.

His last term runs through January 2019. After that, he plans to spend more time with his kids and continue to work on his talk show.

“I can no longer do this,” Jones told MetroNews in a sit-down interview.

“I’ll be 68 years old and I enjoy working here if they allow me to continue and if they don’t, I’ve enjoyed every single day of it. I have two young boys and I just will try to do things that retired people enjoy.”

Jones first got into politics when he was elected as Kanawha County Sheriff in 1984. He’s had a variety of jobs over the years including running his own restaurant, but one job that changed it all for him was when he became the assistant refuse director with the City Public Works Department.

“I became inspired by the guys I worked with and by the people out on the routes. People kept asking me why don’t you run for mayor?” he said. Jones ran that year and got elected.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said his son Jarrett helped him decide to run for a fourth term.

Just like any person who enjoys his or her job, Jones developed a love for helping the people of Charleston. He said he got so involved with projects that when each election season came around, he kept running.

“You say I’ll just do it one more time. I’ll just do it one more time and to be quite candid about it — I was always afraid who might get the job,” he said.

During his time as mayor, Jones has had several accomplishments, but one that doesn’t compare to the rest was when he fixed pensions for city policeman and firemen.

“You never get credit for what you prevent, but we prevented a catastrophe from happening here. We did half a cent tax for the Civic Center and half a cent for that and, to me, it’s the most significant of my (public) lifetime,” he said.

His biggest concern in recent months has been the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department’s needle exchange program. He hopes to put an end to the program before his time as mayor runs out.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones (right) hands WV Health Right CEO Angie Settle a $5,000 check to be put toward its needle exchange program.

“They gave away 50,000 needles. On both sides of every needle, there’s crimes. If that happens again, I don’t know if we can survive that. There’s an effort underway to make it happen, so that’ll be my last accomplishment if I’m able to stop it,” Jones said.

There’s no doubt that Jones knows the most stories and has seen the most changes in Charleston compared to previous mayors. While he’s enjoyed his time, he says, the position bears a resilient demeanor.

“The one thing I’ve learned being in politics is you better have a strong sense of internal values because the names you’re going to be called, when you have to do things that are uncomfortable or disliked by people, you have to learn to disassociate and just put up with it,” he said.

Candidates in this year’s Primary Election for Charleston mayor include Republican J.B. Akers, Democrats Andy Richardson and Amy Shuler Goodwin and Independent candidate Andy Backus.

Jones’ advice for the next mayor is to stay true to the citizens.

“To be total transparent, to tell the truth, to get the bad news out as quickly as you can get it out,” he said.

Jones said he wants to step away from city government. He no longer wants to be in the public eye, unless it’s on his talk show. He said he hopes to continue talking with callers on a daily basis.

“I have a family out there on talk radio and I call them my family,” he said. “I can give advice to people that call the show about how I might handle a constituent problem and they can still use my advice if they want to. I think that might be a contribution I can make.”

Primary Election Day is Tuesday.

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