It was a historic night in Charlotte, North Carolina as the city elected its first black female mayor on Tuesday (Nov. 7). Democrat Vi Lyles, won 58 percent of the vote to Republican rival, Kenny Smith, reports the Charlotte Oberserver.
“With this opportunity you’ve given me, you’ve proven that we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness,” Lyles told supporters. “You’ve proven that a woman whose father didn’t graduate from high school can become this city’s first female African-American mayor.”
Y’all. My mother @ViLyles made history tonight. She is the FIRST EVER Black woman elected Mayor of Charlotte, NC! pic.twitter.com/Acq5ZeVE2y
— Aisha Alexander (@AishaThinker) November 8, 2017
Smith, 44, congratulated Lyles on the win, but admitted to being “caught off guard” by the results, since voter turnout in Charlotte was higher than expected.
A native of Columbiam South Carolina, Lyles is no stranger to braking barriers. Despite growing up in the “deeply segregated South” she was one of the first black women to attend Queens University (formerly Queens College) where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. She went on to earn a Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The 66-year-old grandmother worked as a budget official and as assistant city manager for three decades. She also held the title of Director of Community Outreach for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and will be the first former city administrator in the mayor’s office, according to the Oberserver.
While Lyles’ victory comes a year after protests erupted in Charlotte after the District Attorney Andrew Murray decided not to charge officer Brentley Vinson in the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, it remains to be seen if the win can bring about change in a city where the median income for white families is more than 86 percent higher than that of black and Hispanic households.
And the racial disparities extend to the state’s judicial system, as more than half of those incarcerated in North Carolina are black.
In a message on Facebook Wednesday (Nov. 8) Lyles thanked voters and vowed to lead as she has for “nearly 40 years in public service.”
“When I decided to run for Mayor, I made a commitment to you that I will get the job done,” she wrote. My belief that our police and communities need to trust one another; our transportation system should have multiple, affordable options for all; and everyone should have a job and a safe neighborhood to live in. That’s not changed.
“As your mayor, I’ll act on these beliefs, and these values will guide my decisions. I’m calling for action from day one, and I’m ready.”
Lyles isn’t alone in the history-making election. Several cities elected black mayors for the first time on Tuesday.
The election also marked victories for a diverse group of candidates, including the newly-elected Sikh mayor of Hoboken N.J., two openly trans women earning seats in the Virginia state legislator and Minneapolis City Council, and wins for Asian and Latino candidates.