CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Voters in Charlotte have selected Democrat Vi Lyles as the city’s sixth mayor since 2009, and she isn't wasting any time getting down to business.
Lyles held a media roundtable Wednesday morning where she mapped out her priorities.
She said first she wants to meet with the new city council, which includes several new faces. Lyles said she wants the council to define its agenda and work to execute it together.
Lyles priorities include more affordable housing, building trust with the community, and jobs. She said to create new jobs in Charlotte, the city will have to focus on some key areas.
"Good water, sewer systems, good roads and quality of life that people will want to have their employees live in that area," Lyles said.
Lyles will be sworn in at the Government Center on Dec. 4.
She will replace current mayor Jennifer Roberts who lost her bid for re-election during the Democratic primary. Roberts' term was beset with controversy over gay and transgender rights and her handling of violent protests following the shooting death of Keith Scott by police in September 2016.
Lyles defeated Republican Kenny Smith, who conceded the race, in Tuesday's election to replace Roberts. Lyles was leading with 58 percent of the vote before Smith conceded.
Lyles had 71,876 votes, or 59.13 percent, and Smith had 49,555 votes, or 40.77 percent, of the vote.
Lyles will be the first African-American woman to be mayor of Charlotte.
She sent out a Twitter post Tuesday, saying, "We are victorious!"
“Today is an important day because today we made history,” Lyles said in her victory speech. “It is an honor to be elected by the voters of this community to serve as mayor of Charlotte.”
Despite all of the advertisements claiming otherwise, Smith said Lyles will be a good mayor and he's not worried about the city's future under her leadership.
“Marcus Jones is a fantastic city manager. Bob Hagemann is a great city attorney,” Smith said. “The folks who surround her aren't changing. It's not like you are handing over the keys to the car to someone who has never driven before.”
Smith said he is taking some time off and plans on taking his family to Lego Land on Thursday, but isn’t completely ruling out a future political run for another office.
Smith lost his bid to become Charlotte's first Republican mayor since Pat McCrory finished his final term in 2009. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Charlotte by more than 2 to 1, although unaffiliated voters surpass Republicans and comprise 30 percent of the electorate.
Smith spent significantly more money than Lyles in the campaign, and his television ads filled local airwaves.
Mecklenburg County saw a surge in early voting during this election cycle, according to officials.
"I think you almost doubled what you did two years ago with early voting with 35,000 people, " Director of Elections Michael Dickerson said.
Dickerson said hot-button issues and the race for mayor meant a bigger turnout on Election Day.
Lyles will be working with five new faces on City Council once everyone is sworn in.
Democrat Braxton Winston will join the council as an at-large member. Democrat Justin Harlow is a newcomer to District Two.
Republican Tariq Bokhari won Kenny Smith's old seat in District Six.
Newcomers Larken Egleston and Matt Newton ran unopposed in District One and District Five.
Even with all the new council members, Democrats will keep a 9-2 majority.
Lyles' victory is a highlight in nearly 30 years of service, going back to her start as an analyst in Charlotte's budget department before she became budget director. She was assistant city manager from 1996 to 2004. She was elected to the City Council in 2013 and selected by her peers as mayor pro tem in December 2015.
Statement from Lyles:
"We are victorious! It’s truly an honor to be voted the next mayor of Charlotte.
I want to say thank you to every person who has contributed to this campaign – for every door knock, phone call made, t-shirt worn. Thank you, for taking the time to go the polls and vote for me. Thank you for choosing opportunity for yourselves and your families.
It's been an incredible journey and tonight you've proven we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness. That despite attack advertisements and dark money being pumped into this election, there is no place for negativity in our city – or in the Mayor's office. The high road, always wins. And most importantly, you've proven that despite what others say, we want to raise our children in a city where you can both live and work – where there is affordable housing, jobs and economic opportunity for all.
I’m calling for action on day one, and I’m ready but I ask that you help me continue the conversation around the issues that are going to move us forward. Together, we are going to build a brighter future for every Charlottean.
Your support is humbling, and I look forward to serving you.
Thank you for all you."
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