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Council breaks from norm, elects Braxton Winston as mayor pro tem

CHARLOTTE — It was a night of pomp and circumstances Tuesday as the Charlotte City Council said goodbye to four of its members and welcomed familiar faces Lawana Slack-Mayfield and James “Smuggie” Mitchell, and newcomers Marjorie Molina and Dante Anderson.

But after a round of thank you speeches, the city leaders got down to their first order of business -- electing a mayor pro tem.

In a unanimous vote, Councilmember Braxton Winston was selected by his colleagues to serve in the role.

While the result appears to lack drama, Tuesday’s decision breaks from city norms.

On Monday, Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe and Joe Bruno learned there was support on council for bucking the regular trend -- electing the top vote-getter in the council’s at-large race as the mayor pro tem -- in favor of selecting a different councilmember.

The mayor pro tem serves important roles in public and private. In public, the mayor pro tem steps in for the mayor whenever the mayor is absent. In private, the mayor pro tem serves as a de facto whip, finding out where councilmembers stand on issues and whether there is support.

In the July election, Dimple Ajmera netted the most votes in the at-large race and made it known she wanted the position. She received a nomination from Councilmember Molina, but declined the position.

“As the will of the voters was the standard procedure, I was interested in the work of the (mayor pro tem). But there is a time when we must decide whether to lead or help someone else lead in a unified voice,” Ajmera said after the nomination. “I have decided to help Councilmember Winston lead as the next mayor pro tem of Charlotte.”

On Tuesday afternoon Winston was identified as a leading candidate for the role with backing from at least two Charlotte City Councilmembers, a source familiar with the vote told the Political Beat’s Joe Bruno.

“When you have 11 different voices, 12 different voices and the magnitude of decisions we are having, those can sometimes get disorganized if you don’t have an entity to build consensus,” Winston told Bruno on Tuesday night.

This is just the third time the person who received the most votes in the at-large race was not voted mayor pro tem. Ajmera finished ahead of Winston by 706 votes in the July election.

In 2015, Charlotte City Council supported Vi Lyles over Julie Eiselt for the mayor pro tem position. Eiselt finished ahead of Lyles, but supported the now mayor for the position. It was Eiselt’s first term.

After Tuesday’s vote, multiple councilmembers told Channel 9 there was a meeting amongst Democrats on who to support with Winston being the choice. They said they weren’t worried about breaking the precedent of selecting the top vote-getter.

>>> At 11 p.m. on Channel 9, the Political Beat’s Joe Bruno will have an interview with Winston and more reaction from the new council’s first meeting.

(WATCH BELOW: City Council set to swear in new members; leadership position remains in question)

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