For a guy known to be frequently late, Anthony Foxx traveled at Mach speed on his way to the stage at Time Warner Cable Arena last Sept. 4.
In a little over three years, he shot from relative obscurity to addressing thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention as the host citys mayor.
Foxx played a key role in landing that convention, a momentous accomplishment and the one for which his time as Charlottes mayor will be most remembered.
His announcement Friday that he will not seek re-election ends a chapter of his life that saw him go from baby-faced, soft-spoken political rookie to a successful two-term mayor who helped a staggering city rebound from the depths of the Great Recession. (He is, however, as baby-faced and soft-spoken as ever.)
Foxx, puzzlingly, did not reveal his future plans Friday. But he amassed a record in three-plus years as mayor that, while it had notable blemishes, makes him an attractive target for future political jobs.
His most tangible achievement was recruiting the DNC. The very idea that Charlotte could host such a prominent event elicited chuckles not long ago. But Foxx got to know President Obama personally and lobbied on Charlottes behalf repeatedly. Democratic leaders considered dozens of factors, but by all accounts Foxx was an effective ambassador for the city. The convention went off without a hitch, and Charlotte earned fawning praise around the world. Thats a legacy in which Foxx can rightly take great pride.
The DNC was the most concrete expression of a less measurable trait that made Foxx successful: He has represented the city well, from ribbon-cuttings to rubber-chicken dinners to meetings with corporate prospects. In a city government that gives all the real power to the City Council and the city manager, it is perhaps our mayors most essential role.
He has used his bully pulpit effectively, especially when he pressured the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and its then-CEO, Tim Newman. Foxxs questioning of Newmans leadership ultimately led to greater accountability at the CRVA and to Newmans well-earned resignation in February 2012.
Foxx pledged during his first run for mayor in 2009 to improve the citys relationship with Washington and Raleigh. He was making progress on Raleigh until a group of Republicans hostile to Charlotte took control. And his reputation and connections in Washington have benefited the city. One example: His tenacity helped secure $580 million in federal money to extend the Lynx light-rail line to UNC Charlotte. He also initiated a study on how Charlotte can meet its future transportation needs given its limited resources, a question that will shape this region for decades to come.
Foxx had his share of struggles, especially recently. The citys fight to maintain control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport appears to have been sparked in part by how Foxx and former City Manager Curt Walton handled US Airways executives and airport director Jerry Orr. And Foxx misplayed his hand with an inexperienced City Council, leading to the death of a $926 million capital plan last year.
Foxx will get a second chance at those negotiations this spring. Helping the council reach an effective compromise would be a commendable coda to an already admirable local political career.
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