Election 2023: Sims won’t run again for city council, still plans continued service to Bloomington

Bloomington at-large city councilmember Jim Sims will not be seeking reelection in 2023.

Sims has confirmed his plans not to run in 2023 in a phone interview with The B Square.

The nine-members of the city council, along with the mayor and city clerk, are up for election in 2023. All 11 elected Bloomington officials are Democrats.

Sims said his decision not to seek reelection was a tough one—something he had grappled with, and consulted with others about.

But in the end, Sims said, he recognized the potential impact that the stress of city council service might have on his own health. That led him to conclude he could serve the community better in non-legislative ways.

“It’s just time to move on,” Sims said.

Some of those non-legislative ways include his involvement in the Monroe County branch of the NAACP. Sims currently serves as the organization’s 2nd vice president for political engagement and finance. Sims said he plans to continue his more than 20 years of service with the NAACP.

Another way Sims plans to continue his service is through the Rotary Club as a club director. Sims said he’s happy with some of the progress that Rotary Club has made, since it started as a group of powerful white men. Sims said the local club had written a resolution on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and it had been accepted by the International Rotary office.

Sims described the value of the DEI statement as more than just words: “You can say ‘We’re welcoming!’ and ‘We invite you in!’—but in this club, there’s an opportunity to be in leadership.” He added, “I think that goes a long way.”

The Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus is another organization where Sims said he’d direct some of his energy.

When Sims was elected city council president by his council colleagues in January 2021, he quoted basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “One person can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one person cannot make a team.”

Asked by The B Square what he hopes the current edition of the Bloomington city council can still accomplish as a team in its one remaining year, Sims replied, “My hope is, in a nutshell: civility—I think that’s the one thing I would say.”

Sims said that every council member will have certain priorities for what they want to accomplish. He added that whatever a single councilmember might want to achieve, “If you don’t have four other votes, then you got squat.”

The basic math of what it takes to achieve a majority on the nine-member council lends itself to working at relationships and working toward a consensus, Sims said. That kind of relationship building is one of the things that has been missing from the city council in the last two years, Sims said.

That rough two-year timeframe squares up with the efforts by some councilmembers to enact an ordinance that would provide protections for homeless encampments on public land—which ended unsuccessfully in a 9-hour council meeting on March 3, 2021. Sims was not able to attend that meeting—because it came just after the death of his daughter.

At the next council meeting, following the rancorous debate in early March, Sims offered some words as council president, in an effort to establish a more productive approach going forward. Then as now, Sims appealed to the notion of civility:

Civility has been on my mind lately, and I have shared that with many of my colleagues and others throughout the community. But when I was sworn in as president, or elected as president, I did make a statement that this was not a transition of power, but a transition of leadership. And I still hold fast to that.

And I think those in positions of leadership would agree—I would like to think so. I also said that I would like to set the operational tone of this city council of how we operate using these four descriptors: collaboration, compassion, collegiality and respect.

And as I recall, when I said that, I thought it was important that we set that tone and also make sure we extend those courtesies, not only to our own colleagues, but to others in city administration and their staff, to other elected officials across Monroe County, and particularly and specifically toward, members of the public, who are our constituents.

So I hope I don’t bore folks from time to time that I review and reiterate those areas that I just spoke on, because I really do think it’s important as we take care of legislative business of this council.

Even if it has waxed and waned over the last two years, the divisive character of deliberations during Bloomington city council meetings has persisted.

Sims retired in 2019 from Indiana University where he served as facility manager for the northwestern residence halls. He’s married to Doris Sims, who retired from the city of Bloomington in early 2021.

Sims has served as one of three at-large members of the city council since August of 2017, when the Democratic Party caucused Sims into the seat left vacant by Timothy Mayer’s resignation.

Two years later, Sims won election to an at-large seat on the city council—by placing second to Susan Sandberg in the Democratic Party’s primary. Matt Flaherty was the third at-large member elected that year. No general election for at-large seats was held in 2019, because no citywide municipal races were contested.

Sims’s decision not to seek reelection means at least two of the council’s three at-large seats will have different representation starting in 2024. Instead of running for another term as an at-large city councilmember Sandberg has announced a run for mayor.

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