City’s first gay council member takes office

Charlotte City Council welcomes four new faces as longtime members step down

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: December 6, 2011 in Featured Stories, News

Newly-seated Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, third from left, watches as Mayor Anthony Foxx addresses the chamber. From left: Councilmembers Andy Dulin, Michael Barnes and Mayfied, Foxx and Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon. Photo Credit: Jimmie Cobb, JC Digital Photography Works

CHARLOTTE — New members of city council were sworn in Monday night in an event marked by historic change as the city welcomed District 3 Democrat LaWana Mayfield, its first openly gay or lesbian elected official.

Mayfield, who ousted predecessor Warren Turner in a September primary, took her oath of office with her partner, Gelisa Stitt, and her partner’s mother. She thanked them and others in brief remarks after the ceremony.

“Thank you first and foremost to the residents of District 3 that took a chance on me, that said you belive in the work I’ve done in the community for more than 15 years and wish to continue doing sitting down here beneath each of you,” said Mayfield, who soundly defeated a Republican challenger last month. “We are servants and I hope to serve my district with respect and continue the growth that the previous representative started.”

Democrat LaWana Mayfield, center, takes her oath of office with Republican Andy Dulin to her left and Democrat Michael Barnes at right. Photo Credit: Jimmie Cobb, JC Digital Photography Works

She added, “I need all of your help, all of you at home. I need you to show up and I need to hear your voices and ideas and concerns, and I will do my best to make sure those ideas and concerns are heard around this dais.”

Mayfield’s short speech was met with loud applause and a standing ovation.

In addition to Mayfield, the council welcomed three other new, Democratic faces to the body. The council now has a 9-2 Democratic majority.

District 5 Democrat John Autry replaced 12-year incumbent Nancy Carter, who did not run for reelection.

Autry said working to build up East Charlotte would be among his top priorities.

“I am so happy, honored, gratified and humbled to be representing the great people of District 5 in Charlotte,” Autry said. “I am reminded of the work we have ahead of us at revitalizing, invigorating and changing the perception of the eastside of this city. I feel like we are the ones ready to do it. I feel like the constituents in that district are eager for change and we’re going to get about the business of the work of taking care of that.”

At-Large Councilmembers Beth Pickering and Claire Fallon, both Democrats, were also seated as newcomers.

Pickering stressed civic involvement, equality and inclusion.

Fallon thanked a range of community members and organizations, including the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), for their support of her campaign.

Mayor Anthony Foxx, who was sworn in for his second term, laid out a renewed commitment to city-county government consolidation. Foxx said he would put forth a plan to study the combination of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County government operations within the week.

Foxx also stressed the importance of cooperation among the Charlotte region’s 17 counties, especially on matters of transportation and infrastructure.

“If we do not speak with one voice,” Foxx said, “we will risk losing federal dollars to other regions that do.”

Foxx also congratulated each new and returning member of the council and said goodbyes to several others. Those departing included Turner, Carter and At-Large Councilmember Edwin Peacock, who lost his reelection bid.

At-Large Councilmember Jason Burgess, son of the late Susan Burgess, also did not run for reelection. He stepped down after having served the remaining 18 months in his mother’s term. Susan Burgess succumbed to cancer and passed away last June, nine days after resigning from her seat and requesting that her son be appointed in her place.

Several incumbents were returned to office, including District 1 Democrat Patsy Kinsey, District 2 Democrat James Mitchell, District 4 Democrat Michael Barnes, District 6 Republican Andy Dulin, District 7 Republican Warren Cooksey and At-Large Democrats Patrick Cannon and David Howard. Cannon was reelected to his position as mayor pro tem.