Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes Announces Retirement

Cathy Salustri

Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes Announces Retirement

This March, Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes will step down from his post as mayor, ending his 22 year run as the city’s mayor. He asked the Gabber to make this announcement on his behalf.

“I’m ready to retire,” the mayor said over breakfast at Nick’s. “I look at the past with so much love, how fortunate I’ve been to be supported, and what the citizens gave me, [but] being very fair reasonable about the future, I don’t have the assurance quite yet that I’m able to continue at the same energy level for three more years.”

Mayor Yakes, or “Mayor Mike” to many Gulfportians, said he has no pressing health issues but did say that the meetings he missed in recent history showed him that he must now slow his pace.

“I never [used to] miss a meeting,” he said. “I miss a meeting, you might as well chop half of me away. [The missed meetings] were related to health. I’m not on a golf course; I’ve never passed up a meeting to go to a party.”

“I’m talking about normal aging, and responsibilities at home, along with health challenges,” he said. The mayor, a widower in his late 60s, is currently raising a teenage boy and girl. His wife of 31 years, Darlene, died in the summer of 2008. She ran the mayor’s campaigns, helped raise the kids, and helped him with his day-to-day responsibilities.

“You know what? I’ve learned how much Darlene did for me,” he said. “Things that she could do, that I’m trying to do alone, it’s hard. I’ve accepted that.”

Mayor Mike praised the council and the city, saying the unification on council made his decision easier.

“It’s so obvious to me that we’re headed in a good direction. Staff wise, we’re great. Politically, we’re getting stronger. What I like about the new council? They’re involved,” he said. He praised the council for its involvement with state government and the Florida League of Cities and said an effective council needs to spend time with the citizens.

“In order to make Tuesday nights succeed, you better be giving the other six days a lot of attention,” he said. He also said he hopes the council remembers that no one person on council knows better than the residents.

“I’m not elected to think for voters,” he said. “I’m elected to represent the voters.”

The mayor said he will finish his term. He stopped short of endorsing a candidate for his successor, but he did offer that person the following advice:

“Be patient. Listen to the elected and all the residents. That’s the key: government for the people, by the people,” he said. He also spoke of the need for patience at meetings.

“Patience has always been my hardest challenge,” he admitted. “I’ve felt that when we have meetings of tension, if I lose it, then we would all go to hell that night and never be able to come back. It would be like the Christmas party that destroyed the company.”

He encouraged voters, when considering a new mayor, to “ask the candidate the questions that determined why you voted for me.”

As for his tenure as Gulfport’s mayor?

“I am fortunate.”