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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

Incoming leader says he's ready to move Detroit forward

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr., joined by his family, says the city is going to need time for healing. Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr., joined by his family, says the city is going to need time for healing.
CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - The man who will take over as mayor in the wake of Kwame Kilpatrick's resignation said yesterday that he'll ramp up efforts under way for months to prepare him to lead the nation's 11th-largest city.

Ken Cockrel Jr., the 42-year-old president of the City Council, will take over as mayor in two weeks. He said he spoke briefly with Kilpatrick earlier in the day and hopes to meet next week with him about the transition.

Mr. Cockrel, who spoke at a news conference a few hours after Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felony counts and agreed to leave office, said people need to put aside the anger and bitterness of Kilpatrick's seven-months-long sex scandal.

"What we're going to have to focus on really is restoring the credibility not only of the mayor's office, but also of the city of Detroit," Mr. Cockrel said. "There is going to be a need for a healing period in the city of Detroit."

Mr. Cockrel said he plans to meet with those who have advised Kilpatrick, as well as former mayor Dennis Archer, and will solicit advice from community and business leaders.

That will help shape an agenda he hopes to refine as he formally takes office.

"We have to clean up our streets, we have to police our streets more efficiently. And we also have to seek to improve city service delivery," Mr. Cockrel said.

Mr. Cockrel has had months to prepare. Some people began calling for Kilpatrick's resignation shortly after news of sexually explicit text messages between him and then-top aide Christine Beatty surfaced in late January.

Under the Detroit City Charter, the council president fills any void in the mayor's office until an election could be held.

Mr. Cockrel was one of five council members who voted in May to ask Gov. Jennifer Granholm to force Kilpatrick out for misconduct. At the time, he said he voted for the resolution because "an extreme situation like this calls for an extreme measure."

As council president, Mr. Cockrel has preached openness in the board's dealings, presenting himself as a leader above reproach. His father, Ken Cockrel, Sr., was a symbol of integrity during his years as a civil rights attorney and in his stint on the City Council in the late 1970s.

Mr. Cockrel has brought a higher level of decorum over the past three years to the historically rancorous council. However, he has been criticized for his inability to control some of the personalities on the board, especially Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers.

Mrs. Conyers, wife of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers, now takes over as council president. She had no immediate comment on the transition.

Mr. Cockrel appears to have a good working relationship with other members of the council, including Sheila Cockrel, his father's widow.

Sheila Cockrel and four other members of the council appeared at the news conference, and the incoming mayor said he looked forward to working with Mrs. Conyers in her new role.



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