City Council set to swear in new members; leadership position remains in question

CHARLOTTE — Tuesday night will mark a fresh start for Charlotte’s City Council after spending much of its first term under strict COVID-19 protocols. New faces are also set to enter the fold as others leave after losing election bids earlier this year.

“I’m certainly gonna miss the work of being on the City Council. I think I’m ready for a break. It’s certainly been a pretty tumultuous last couple of years,” Larken Egleston said in his final hours as representative for District 1. Egleston lost his bid in the primary election to be an at-large representative for all of Charlotte.

“Should I have done that? Maybe not, but I didn’t expect the election to be delayed twice, didn’t expect some of the folks to be in the race that were, but no regrets,” he told Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe.

As Egleston exits, four people will be sworn in to council, including familiar faces Lawana Slack-Mayfield and James “Smudgie” Mitchell, and newcomers Marjorie Molina and Dante Anderson.

“I do hope that with some of the contentious issues put behind us, that this next council won’t have to deal with, like the Unified Draft Ordinance, they can get off on better footing,” Egleston said.

While the names on the council have been decided, the group will have a first official vote on Tuesday to decide an important leadership role. The mayor pro tem position is open after Councilwoman Julie Eiselt chose not to seek reelection.

The mayor pro tem helps the mayor get councilmembers on track. They assume all duties, powers and obligations of the mayor in her absence.

“I hope that people pay more attention to the duties of mayor pro tem than the position of the mayor pro tem, and if we can get someone that can help bring the council together, articulate a vision for the council to work with the city manager and the mayor’s office, I’m fine with it,” said Malcolm Graham, the representative for Charlotte’s District 2.

For 25 years, in all but one circumstance, the top vote-getter in the Charlotte City Council At-Large race has gone on to be elected by the council as the mayor pro tem.

In the July election, Dimple Ajmera netted the most votes and she’s made it known she’d like to be mayor pro tem.

“The voters who supported me expect me to be the next mayor pro tem, based on past council selections for the position,” Ajmera said in a message to Channel 9. “I don’t expect everyone to be my fan. … That does not, however, prevent us from following past procedure.”

However, sources told Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe and Joe Bruno there is support for other names on the new council to be in that race.

“I’m gonna listen to my colleagues tomorrow, then we’re going to make a decision,” Graham said when asked who he would support.

Heading into his second term on council, Graham told Channel 9 becoming mayor pro tem is not something he wants. But Channel 9′s Joe Bruno learned Graham’s name, along with councilors Victoria Watlington and James Mitchell have been mentioned as candidates for the role.

“I think my focus, and hopefully the focus of the City Council, is just doing the work, the hard work necessary to move the city progressively forward,” Graham said.

As of Tuesday night, it’s unclear whether Ajmera, Graham or any candidate will have enough support -- six votes -- to step into the mayor pro tem role.

“That’s how things get done,” Graham said. “Six councilmembers will raise their hands for someone, for someone and again. Hopefully, it’s a position that doesn’t have a whole lot of responsibility; notice I use the word position.”

>>> Starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 9, government reporter Joe Bruno will have full coverage of the City Council’s decision.

(WATCH BELOW: Election turnout lags in Charlotte’s rare summertime vote)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.