It would probably be hard to persuade young people that if they start out in the Peace Core they will land a big management job later on. However, that is the story of Mayor James M. Baker who was elected for a third term in the 2010 election. He got his political experience as a member of the City Council who became the President of the City Council in 1984. He was the first African American to be elected to that position.
James Baker was born in Ohio. After high school he served in the Air Force. After receiving an honor discharge from the military, he signed up to work for VISTA which was the domestic Peace Core program. He was sent to Wilmington to work with inner city support programs.
Before going into politics he worked for the Model Cities Program, Northeast Federal Credit Union, the Governor’s office, and Community Action of Greater Wilmington. If you visit his internet site as the Mayor of Wilmington, you will learn that he is all business when it comes to his job. He says that Wilmington is enjoying a period of growth and prosperity that has not been realized in the city since World War II. He attributes his success to an emphasis on fiscal management which began in 2001 when he began the first term of his office as mayor. He also led efforts to revitalize the Wilmington Waterfront area.
He has got a long long list of programs set up to deal with issues like fiscal responsibility, safety, neighborhoods, and minority affairs. His chess game for the city is not accidental or casual. He is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalitions which was co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg from New York and Thomas Menino from Boston.
In the category of life, though, James M. Baker talks about his writing as a means for understanding his own life. He is the author of “The Genuine American Music”. You can find a copy of that book in the Wilmington Public Library, the New Castle Public Library at Newark, and the libraries down by the sea shore. The book is an encyclopedia of African American musicians.
–Did you know Josephine Baker was turned down for her first job by an African American band who said she was too dark?
–Did you know Eartha Kitt played the role of Cat Woman on the television version of Batman?
–Did you know that Lester Young was drafted into the Army where he ended up in the stockade? The physical and emotional abuse he sustained there due to racial prejudice was something he never got over.
–Did you know that Aretha Franklin’s aunt was named Clara Ward, and that she was a famous gospel singer?
–Did you know that Bessie Smith was born in 1894, and she was one of the only singers from her era to be paid well?
O.K. Mayor Baker, we have found you out – your real love is art and music. What have you done for the arts in Wilmington?
Once again Mayor Baker has got his list:
-the opening of Theater N
-the Wilmington Independent Film Festival
-creation of the Wilmington Games
-“attracting David Bromberg to Wilmington”
-First Night Wilmington
-the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival
-the Riverfront Blues Festival
-First State Ballet Theater
-reconstruction of the Delaware Art Museum
He has got more on his list too. What does art have to do with the political buzz going around Wilmington? The answer is quite a bit.