In a 4-minute YouTube video released around 4 p.m. on Thursday, Bloomington mayor Democrat John Hamilton announced he will not seek a third four-year term as mayor.
That means there are, so far at least, just two declared candidates in the Democratic Party primary—Susan Sandberg and Kerry Thomson. Their candidacies won’t become official until they file the paperwork at the start of the year.
In the video statement, Hamilton said the choice not to seek a third term was “not an easy decision.” Reflecting on his two terms of service, Hamilton said “felt like the right time to turn the page on a new chapter.”
Hamilton said, “It’s tempting to run, but I just have decided not to.”
About his remaining time in office, Hamilton said, “There are 13 months ahead of great work, exciting work.” He likened it to an athletic contest: “We’re kind of in the fourth quarter of the game. And you know, a lot of really good things can happen in the fourth quarter of a game.”
In the video, as a prelude to the announcement he won’t be running for reelection, Hamilton ticks through the areas where he believes Bloomington has achieved successes over the last seven years: the economy, housing, digital access, public safety, sanitation services, water utilities and bus service.
During Hamilton’s tenure as mayor, the city’s budget has grown from about $72 million in 2016 to $129 million for 2023.
Hamilton first ran for mayor in 2011, losing that year to incumbent Democrat Mark Kruzan in a three-way Democratic Party primary, receiving 40 percent of the vote. In 2015 Kruzan did not seek reelection. That year, Hamilton prevailed in the three-way Democratic Party primary over Darryl Neher and John Linnemeier, with about 57 percent of the vote.
The 2015 general election contest included a Republican candidate for the first time since David Sabbah ran against Kruzan in 2007. In 2015, Hamilton received about 77 percent of the vote in the race against Republican John Turnbull.
In 2019 Hamilton won the Democratic Primary race against Amanda Barge, but in early April, before the election, Barge announced she was ending her campaign. By then, the deadline for withdrawing had passed, so her name still appeared on the ballot. In 2019, the mayor’s race in the general election was uncontested.
A Bloomington native, Hamilton’s first experience as an elected official was on the Monroe County Community School Corp. board. He served one term from 2008 to 2012, representing District 6. His other community work includes chairing Bloomington’s Commission on Sustainability from 2005 to 2009, and serving as president of the Shalom Community Center board from 2013 to 2015.
From 2001 to 2003 he was secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, appointed by Gov. Frank O’Bannon. Previously he had been appointed by O’Bannon as commissioner for the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management, a position he held from 1997 to 1999.
In 1998, Hamilton founded City First Bank of D.C., a certified Community Development Financial Institution focused on financing for low-to-moderate-income communities.
Hamilton, the nephew of former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a law degree from Indiana University. He’s 63 years old. Hamilton is married to Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor, who now works in the Biden administration’s Department of Justice.