By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the longest-serving members of Philadelphia City Council has decided not to seek re-election, and will retire after seven terms.

“I’ve decided that I will not seek re-election this year for City Council, for the 9th District,” councilwoman Marian Tasco told KYW Newsradio this morning.

Tasco has been on City Council since 1988, representing an area that includes parts of Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia.  She has long been a key member of a group of African-American politicians from the northwest part of the city that also includes Congressman Chaka Fattah and Pennsylvania state representative Dwight Evans.

But now, Tasco, 77, says she is calling it quits.

“At this point of my life, you kinda look at, it’s time to go and turn the reins over to someone else who has the strength and the tenacity to continue the work we’ve done,” she said.

Tasco adds that one of her proudest accomplishments on Council was the establishment of protections for residents against predatory lenders:

“That started back in the year 2000, when many of my constituents lost their homes because of the predatory lending and what was happening on Wall Street.”

In fact, Tasco became nationally known for her work on that issue.

Four years ago Tasco faced public criticism when she sought re-election despite receiving the controversial lump-sum pension payment that comes on retirement known as “DROP.”  She did so by retiring for one day at the end of her sixth term before being sworn in for her seventh term.

That issue, Tasco says, played no role in the decision to retire now.

“We took a hit because people wanted to make something out of it,” she says.  “There was an effort by some of the media in our community to clear Council out.  And I just happened to be one of the councilmembers that they couldn’t rile.”

And after beginning her seventh term, she sought but failed to receive the support of her colleagues to become City Council president.

Prior that, Tasco has served as Democratic majority leader on Council under then-president Anna Verna.

Tasco had a very prominent role in this past year’s controversial debate over Mayor Nutter’s plan to sell PGW. Tasco, who is also a member of the Gas Commission, was Council’s most vocal opponent of selling the utility.

The plan ended up dying after no councilmember agreed to schedule a hearing or a vote.  Tasco now says she’s proud of that outcome.

“I think it was a great accomplishment.  And certainly having the cooperation of the president of City Council (Darrell Clarke), as well as my colleagues’ understanding the need to maintain that utility as a city-owned entity,” she said.

Tasco says she is backing a political ally, state representative Cherelle Parker, to succeed her on City Council. And she denies that the timing of her retirement announcement — after the new year — was designed to give other potential challengers less time:

“If a person is interested in running for office, they don’t wait for the incumbent to take action.  They proceed to mount a campaign based on what their agenda might be.”

Word of Tasco’s decision to retire comes one day after her longtime colleague, Council president Clarke, announced he will not leave Council to run for mayor.