CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrat Patrick Cannon was sworn-in as Charlotte’s new mayor on Monday night, promising an emphasis on jobs, the economy and community safety, while five new members of City Council joined returning members to jump start a new session in local government.
Cannon turned a run-of-the-mill oath-of-office speech into a personal and significant moment to give thanks to God and impart life lessons he learned as a child.
“God is good!” Cannon exclaimed before beginning his speech, later adding an anecdote from his mother.
“I often like to share a passage my mother posted in our home when I was in middle school that has kept me grounded ever since,” Cannon said. ” It read: ‘You who think you know it all, are very annoying to those of us that already do.’ While the author is unknown, the message is clear: Nobody likes a know it all.”
Cannon added, “As Mayor, I will look to, listen to and partner with subject matter experts to make Charlotte an even better place for all of us to live, work and to recreate.”
Cannon, who defeated Democratic rival James Mitchell in a primary and Republican opponent Edwin Peacock III in the general election, focused mostly on jobs and the economy during his speech.
“Charlotte’s history is steeped in commerce starting with its humble beginnings at the intersection of two local trading paths in the heart of Center City at Trade and Tryon,” Cannon said. “As the world has become increasingly connected, Charlotte has emerged as a global intersection allowing industries located here to create, import, manufacture and deliver anywhere and anytime. We must capitalize on these opportunities and increase our global competitive edge.”
The new mayor, who was first elected to Council at age 26 in 1993, said the city should focus on building upon the successes of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, an issue that has divided the city from its local state legislative delegation and other state lawmakers. The city has been embroiled in legal fights to keep the airport under city, rather than state or a regional commission’s, control.
Cannon also said he will work to support the new Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility and continue supporting the extension of Charlotte’s local and regional transit system, as well as work to further opportunities for youth employment and mentoring.
Support of small businesses will also take a priority, he said.
“We must be entrepreneurial and inclusive,” Cannon said, stressing his support of the Charlotte Business INClusion program for minority, women and small business enterprises.
Cannon’s speech differed significantly from former Mayor Patsy Kinsey’s departing remarks in her State of the City on Nov. 25, in which she stressed her work reaching out to and including the city’s LGBT and immigrant residents. Kinsey, a District 1 representative for a decade, had served temporarily since July, when former Mayor Anthony Foxx stepped down to take on his new role as secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Cannon, whose mayoral campaign was endorsed by neither this newspaper nor the local Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), made no mention of the LGBT, immigrant or other diverse communities in his oath-of-office speech Monday night.
Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, the city’s first openly gay or lesbian elected official, said Monday evening that a precedent has already been set and she hopes Cannon will follow in the inclusive tradition set by former Mayors Foxx and Kinsey.
“I would hope that Mayor Cannon would recognize the importance of having a strong, diverse community and recognize the strong voice that the LGBT community has in Charlotte,” she said. “I would hope to see him at more events when he’s invited, just as Mayor Kinsey was at the Charlotte Pride Parade and showed up at many events at the [LGBT Community Center of Charlotte] and Time Out Youth. I would like to hope and to think that our new mayor, just as Mayor Foxx showed up to the LGBT community, our new mayor will do the same.”
Mayfield, first elected in 2011, returned to Council Monday night as the local LGBT community’s only out elected official, after openly gay Plaza Midwood businessman Billy Maddalon stepped down from his temporary role in Kinsey’s District 1 seat.
“You’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that it says a whole lot about Charlotte when a person like me…can serve our community from a place like this,” Maddalon said in departing remarks, referencing his youth as an adopted child. “Charlotte is a special community when folks like me can serve in a place like this.”
Mayfield took her oath of office with her partner Gelissa Stitt by her side, and later thanked her in short remarks from the dais.
“I want to thank Gelissa for being an amazing partner for me, for giving me your unbridled support,” Mayfield said, “for all of the early mornings, the late nights, the community events, the weekends, the phone calls that come at 8, 9, sometimes 10 o’clock at night, for supporting me and letting me know it’s okay, that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to do.”
Mayfield said she wants to use the next two years of her public service to focus on economic development, especially on the Tuckaseegee and Nation’s Ford corridors. She also wants to retain her focus on development connected to and surrounding the airport.
John Autry, a returning District 5 representative, used his brief remarks to outline his vision for progressive change.
“We have so much left o do we’ve started a lot of great work over the past two years. We have a lot of other work that needs to be addressed,” Autry said, referencing zoning changes, city growth and transit.
Autry also addressed a desire to see a living wage for city employees.
“How [do] we bring more industry to this city to provide good jobs?” he asked. “And, I think those [jobs] should be living wage jobs and I think the best way to ensure we have living wages is to start with the city employees and to make sure that they have a living wage and can afford to live anywhere they want to in this city.”
The new Council includes six returning Democratic incumbents: Michael Barnes, Claire Fallon, David Howard, Autry and Mayfield, along with Kinsey who returned to her District 1 seat. Council also installed five new members, Republicans Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith and Democrats Al Austin, Vi Lyles and Greg Phipps.
In a short statement on Facebook, MeckPAC congratulated the new Council and Cannon.
“We look forward to working with you over the next two years to further equality in the City of Charlotte for all citizens,” the group said.
The ceremony began with an invocation offered by the Rev. Dr. Everett Goodwin, interim pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church. Goodwin was invited by Kinsey, who is a member at the LGBT-friendly congregation, kicked out of the North Carolina and Southern Baptist conventions in 2007 for its LGBT-inclusive stands.
The ceremony ended with a closing prayer from Pastor Stephen Furtick of Elevation Church, an anti-LGBT congregration affiliated with the Southern Baptist and North Carolina Baptist conventions. Furtick, who recently came under public scrutiny for building a $1.7 million, 16,000-square-feet home in nearby Waxhaw, N.C., was invited to the ceremony by newly-installed Mayor Cannon, who has been a public supporter of Elevation and sometimes attends church services there.
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