While walking in Harlem recently, I greeted Mayor David Dinkins as he was walking out of a local restaurant. Dapper as always, the mayor greeted everyone with a grand smile, paying particular attention to the little ones, the children.

I walked with him for a block or two and noticed that with every step we took he was greeted with such reverence. “Mr. Mayor,” “When are you running again, Mr. Mayor?” We need you, Mr. Mayor,” “We love you, Mr. Mayor.” There was a true love and respect for him. People crossed the street to shake his hand, and he graciously acknowledged each and every one. It was like walking down the street with a rock star except with no cameras–just a man who had been mayor of this city 20 years ago. But, according to all who saw him, he is still their mayor.

Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg; they will never be even half the man that Dinkins is. He is class and heart. While we didn’t all agree with him all of the time, we knew that he did so much for this city and that others, to this day, are still taking credit for the policies that he put in place.

But I digress.

In Dinkins I saw a man greatly revered by the people and I wondered what the next election will hold in store for us. Who will be the next great mayor of this great city of ours?

We know for certain (or do we?) that Bloomberg will not serve another term. That leaves the race wide open–the widest-open race most of us can remember. We know that everyone from hither and yon will be fighting for that seat. We hear there are four real potential candidates, then we hear there are ten. As of yet, we really know nothing except for the fact that we need a mayor of the people, not one who sits on high and rules from the golden throne he bought and paid for.

We need a mayor who understands the needs of our students, understands that disparities in education are mounting and that all of our children are entitled to access to a good, high-quality education. We need a mayor who believes that New York is for everyone, that those that are poor and sick should not be penalized for being in need.

We need a mayor who understands that this city was built on the backs of our labor unions–that the unions need not be our enemies but have been and should be our partners, rather than the wealthy business interests, the country club and Upper East Side buddies of the current inhabitant of City Hall.

We need a mayor who, when he sees a group of children walking down the street with their mother, says to the oldest child, as Mayor Dinkins did the other day, “Remember, the big ones take care of the little ones.”