This year's Harlem mayoral race will give city residents a chance to do something they haven't done before - elect a four-year mayor.
Scott Dean and incumbent John Bentley will campaign for the next two months to be that first. In the past, the mayor had served only a two-year term.
"I can't even imagine what we can accomplish in four years," Bentley said. "The choice citizens make in November will have a big affect on the city for a long time."
Bentley said the longer term, coupled with the fact that two council seats also are up for grabs, could bring a new attitude and direction to the city's government.
C.D. Morris, the Rev. Rudolph Dixon and John Thigpen will be running for the seats left vacant by Randall Hill and Dean, who had to step down to run for mayor.
"With the people we have running, I see a great deal of potential there," Bentley said.
Before that potential can be reached, Bentley knows he has to beat Dean in a race that could potentially see both candidates hurling mud at each other.
"I hope it doesn't come to that," Bentley said.
In an earlier interview, Dean spoke of a perceived ineffectiveness on the mayor's part to communicate with council on several occasions and said Bentley had tuned out the voices of the citizens.
On Thursday, Bentley agreed that communication between him and council has been lacking and even accepted some of the blame, adding that will change if he is re-elected. Dean was on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment this week.
"I would work very hard at the communications aspect," he said. "I've tried to fit in, my mistake is I kept my mouth shut and sat back. I won't do that anymore."
The lack of communication between council members and the mayor reached such a low that Bentley considered not seeking re-election. He even wrote a six-page letter to council members explaining his frustration with them.
Before he could send the letter, though, Bentley said several phone calls from citizens urging him to run changed his mind.
"I've been told popularity will win the election and not accomplishments," Bentley said. "I feel the people of Harlem are a little more astute than that."
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