Tom Henry said this week he wants to seek a fourth term as Fort Wayne's mayor. Henry, who had heart surgery in 2016, says he's in good health, and it's difficult to imagine anyone pushing him aside in next spring's Democratic primary. But the Republican primary has two strong declared candidates, City Councilman John Crawford and businessman Tim Smith, so it's far too early even to guess how things will turn out next fall.
At his announcement Monday, the 66-year-old Henry said he wants to continue to lead on responsible public spending, economic development, neighborhood improvements and safety. It's good that he isn't focused on breaking any records. Because the mayoral record-holders, at this point at least, are sitting pretty.
Sure, if Henry were to win a fourth four-year term and begin serving, he would pass Paul Helmke, who served three consecutive mayoral terms from 1987 through 1999. By spring 2022, Henry would eclipse Harry Baals, now the city's second-longest-serving mayor, who died during his fourth term after serving 151/2 years in office, in May 1954.
But when Henry's fourth term ended at the end of 2023, he would still be short of the record now held by William Hosey. Here's why.
As The Journal Gazette's Nancy Vendrely wrote in 1999, “Hosey, who served from 1906 to 1910, 1914 to 1918 and 1922 to 1926, picked up an extra year in his fourth term, serving from 1930 through 1934.
The Indiana General Assembly had passed a 'skip' election law – elections normally held in 1933 were postponed one year because of the Depression.”
Thus, Hosey, a utility visionary who built a power plant, the water filtration plant and the dam on the Maumee River that bears his name, racked up three four-year terms and one five-term, for a total of 17 years in office. So if Tom Henry wants to rule the record books, he needs to start gearing up for a run in 2023, as well.
But even if he won his fifth mayoral election, Henry would still fall short of a record held by Charles A. Bollinger, who was elected seven times and served 15 years during the late 1800's – when mayoral terms were two years. Bollinger died in office in 1893 at age 55.
Records are made to be broken, of course, but Henry would have to run, win and serve for another four terms – through 2039 – to break that one.