OLIVE BRANCH, MS (abc24.com) - Only three men have held the title of Olive Branch Mayor since the 1960's. Those elected as the city's leader tend to serve multiple terms, but it will soon be time for someone new to take over.
Come next year Olive Branch voters will choose a new name to add to city hall. Current Mayor Sam Rikard has announced he won't be running again.
"It's been common talk," Rikard tells abc24.com. "Anyone that would have asked me over last two and a half years 'Are you running again?' I would have told them, 'No I'm not.'"
It may not be a surprise, but when Rikard leaves office, he'll be leaving a significant political career behind.
"I will have been mayor 16 years," he says. He's been elected to four terms as mayor, two terms as an alderman.
"I just tell people it's time for me to do something else. 24 years in government is enough. I've had fun. I worked for BellSouth for 25 years so I laughingly tell people: 25 years at BellSouth, 24 years in government -- it's time for me to do something else for 24 years."
Rikard may be saying goodbye to politics, but not to the city he's led. "I'll be here, don't intend to move anywhere else."
As for advice to whoever fills his shoes, he says "Be a good listener. Listen to people and their concerns. Prioritize public safety. Keep us safe. That's one reason people keep moving here."
Through his tenure, Olive Branch has been listed twice in the country's best 100 places to live and as the fastest growing city in the nation. One of Rikard's crowning achievements is the town's Methodist Hospital set to open next year.
"That's a project we worked on for 12 years," he says, adding, "improvements to the parks systems. The new city hall, police and court building. They should serve the needs of Olive Branch for many more years to come."
"I think I can leave satisfied that, in my opinion, overall you can say it was a job well done."
Rikard's final term is up June 30, 2013. As to what the future holds for him, the mayor is also a meteorologist. He's hoping to use those skills somewhere.