Change - on both the city council and across the city - was the main theme Monday night as Charlotte's new mayor, Vi Lyles, and city council council were sworn in at the Government Center. The meeting was mostly ceremonial, except for one closely watched piece of business: election of a new mayor pro tem. On that, the council stuck to tradition.
Lyles is the first African American woman to serve as Charlotte's mayor. A former assistant city manager, she had been on the council since 2012, that past two years as mayor pro-tem.
"I've looked forward to this day to stand before you, grateful for your confidence and anxious to begin to serve as your instrument of change, to build opportunity for all in our city," she said in a remarks to a packed City Council chamber.
Lyles said she'll push for new jobs and affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, and economic development for underserved areas like northwest Charlotte.
"I want to be known as a mayor who restored faith between our neighborhoods and city hall. I want to be known as being a mayor who can find a restaurant on Beatties Ford Road," Lyles said, drawing applause. "I want to be known as a mayor who helped create innovative solutions, to actually have new apartments built for people that can afford to live in them, that the rents can be affordable. ... I want to be known as a mayor who helped create jobs and a diverse economy, so people can work every day."
City council members also were sworn in. Democrats held onto a 9 to 2 majority, including all four at-large members - incumbents Julie Eiselt and James (Smuggie) Mitchell, former District 5 council member Dimple Ajmera, and activist Braxton Winston.
Ajmera and Winston are among six members of the new council under the age of 40. So is Republican Tariq Scott Bokhari of south Charlotte.
"To all the skeptics out there who think that Millennials sleep in their parents' basement, pay attention to the next two years because I think you're gonna be surprised … and we are in for a whole new ride," he said, to laughter and applause.
Fellow Republican and south Charlotte representative Ed Driggs, joked that at age 68 he's now the council's "elder." He told his new colleagues the job would be hard, but rewarding. And he had another message.
"I think you guys rock," he said to laughter.
Using the language of an activist, Winston told his colleagues it was up to them to tackle economic inequality.
“It is our time to be warrior advocates for our people, of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. And we have to figure out how to do this together,” he said. “Individual fingers can cause painful scratches and poke some eyes. But if we come together as a fist, we can break through these walls of inequity, and we can make this the Charlotte, the North Carolina and the nation we want to be.”
The meeting's only vote was the election of a mayor pro-tem. That traditionally goes to the top vote getter in the at-large race. That was Eiselt this time. But recent reports said Mitchell also was interested the job. In the end, no battle materialized. Eiselt was the only one nominated.
CHARLOTTE'S NEW CITY COUNCIL
- Mayor – Vi Lyles (D)
- Mayor pro tem – Julie Eiselt (D)
- At-large – Braxton Winston, James Mitchell Jr., Dimple Ajmera (all D)
- District 1 – Larken Egleston (D)
- District 2 – Justin Harlow (D)
- District 3 – LaWana Mayfield (D)
- District 4 – Gregg Phipps (D)
- District 5 – Matt Newton (D )
- District 6 – Tariq Bokhari (R)
- District 7 – Ed Driggs (R)