The City of Melbourne’s lord mayor John So has decided not to seek re-election for the high-profile council job.

The man who spawned the accolade “John So is my bro” will hang up the mayoral robes after 17 years in local government.

So, who has been the city’s mayor for seven years, was first elected as a councillor in 1991.

The Hong Kong-born businessman is widely credited as being a major player in the successful staging of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and for his promotion of the city overseas.

An emotional So said the decision had been a very difficult one, which was why it had taken so long to announce his intentions.

“I’ve given almost a quarter of my life to public service, and in return it has given me many of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” he said to reporters as he choked back tears at the Melbourne Town Hall on Wednesday.

“You cannot work 110 per cent forever and that is what this job requires.

“I am confident this is the right decision.

“It’s time to pass the baton.”

He ranked the Commonwealth Games, the integration of Docklands and multi-million dollar investment in Melbourne’s services and infrastructure as defining moments of his leadership.

“Melbourne has become the city the world and Australia talks about – a place where people from all nations and all backgrounds are invited to contribute,” So said.

He cited “having all the people working together for the common good of the city” as his greatest achievement.

“We set ourselves a goal of becoming one of the world’s most liveable cities – we succeeded three times in under a decade,” he said.

So thanked his deputy Gary Singer and former deputy lord mayor Susan Riley, as well as other councillors and council staff for their service.

While admitting “at times we’ve had our differences”, he said the team had ensured the people of Melbourne “have always come first”.

He also paid tribute to his wife Wendy, children Nat, Alex, Eva and John, saying he wanted to spend more time with them.

Mr So thanked the people of Melbourne for their trust and encouragement.

He said Melbourne would remain his home.

“My heart is in Melbourne – Melbourne is part of me.”

Mr So ruled out a future role in state or federal politics or in diplomacy.

Labor Party member Will Fowles and the Greens’ Adam Bandt are the only candidates who have declared their intentions to stand for election.

Mr So did not endorse either of the candidates standing for election at the mayoral contest on November 29.