ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the longest-serving mayor in the city's history, announced unexpectedly Friday that he will not seek re-election when his fourth term ends next year.
The Democrat, who has led St. Louis since 2001, did not take questions during a brief, quickly called news conference at City Hall, saying he didn't want the announcement to be an "extended eulogy."
Slay, 61, said the decision had nothing to do with his health, and he did not rule out eventually running for another office.
He's not leaving the job early. "I plan to be mayor for the next year and plan to get a whole heck of a lot of things done between now and then," he said.
Slay promised a "full and lengthy controversial agenda to pursue and complete," but didn't elaborate.
The mayoral primary will be next March, with the general election a month later.
Slay was a veteran alderman when he defeated incumbent Mayor Clarence Harmon in the March 2001 primary. Slay was re-elected in 2005, 2009 and 2013.
He faced a tough challenge from Lewis Reed, the city's first-ever black aldermanic president, in 2013. Slay won the primary with 54 percent of the vote to Reed's 44 percent. He won the general election against a Green Party candidate; there was no Republican challenger.
Slay's announcement was particularly surprising since he told St. Louis Public Radio just two weeks ago that he planned to seek a fifth term. He did not explain what changed during the news conference.
The announcement also comes on the heels of two significant victories for the mayor in recent days. The director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced last week that St. Louis is the preferred site for a new office that will keep 3,000 jobs in the city. This week, voters approved a measure that will retain the city's earning tax. Slay called the election win "one of my proudest moments as mayor."
Under Slay's leadership, St. Louis' downtown has been revitalized with development of lofts and new businesses, and the city has developed a growing corridor of high-tech firms.
But the city's population has continued a decline that began in the mid-20th century, and violent crime has risen sharply in recent years. The number of homicides last year reached 188, up from 159 in 2014.
The city also suffered a significant blow in January when the National Football League approved the move of the Rams to Los Angeles, despite an effort backed by Slay and other civic leaders to build a new stadium along the Mississippi River.