Shortly after Charlottes City Council convenes at 4 p.m. today, Mayor Anthony Foxx will resign, capping a quick rise through local politics and ending a successful, if occasionally bumpy, run as the citys leading elected official.
In 7 1/2 years, Foxx has leapt from being a 34-year-old who had never held public office to being the incoming U.S. Secretary of Transportation, confirmed with a 100-0 vote in the Senate.
Foxx was elected mayor for the first time under the gloom of the Great Recession, and his term-and-a-half tenure would be defined largely by the citys and nations economic circumstances. The work of rebuilding our community starts very soon, Foxx told a cheering crowd when he was elected Nov. 3, 2009. Were going to pull Charlotte together.
When we think of Foxxs mayoral stint years from now, this is what well remember, the good and the bad:
• The Democratic National Convention. Not long ago, even some of the citys leaders chuckled at the idea that Charlotte could be selected to host a national political convention. A lot of people had a big hand in making it happen, including the late council member Susan Burgess and then-Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. But Foxxs advocacy to President Obama and other power brokers was essential. Then the city pulled the convention off almost without a hitch, and the national and international press raised our profile in immeasurable ways.
• The streetcar. Like a kid asking for dessert, he wouldnt let it go. Weve been skeptical that it will generate the kind of development Foxx promises, and cautioned against his plan to use property taxes to pay for it. In the end, City Manager Ron Carlee devised a new way to pay for it that won City Council approval, and so, pending federal help, it will be part of Foxxs legacy for good or ill.
• His work ethic and demeanor. Foxx had a job with bus maker DesignLine International, but it seemed to us he was a 24/7 mayor.
From job announcements to chicken dinners, Foxx would pop in (usually late) and make remarks. And in an era of partisanship and lack of professionalism from politicians, Foxx was always earnest, usually smiling and never petty.
• His occasional lack of political finesse. He failed last year to get a capital spending plan through the City Council despite enjoying a 9-2 Democratic majority, blindsided by a last-minute vote against him. His doggedness over the streetcar cost him political capital. He bungled efforts to help the NFLs Carolina Panthers. Through acts of omission or commission, a legislative attempt to seize the citys airport was prompted under his watch.
There were other notable developments: His push to hire Carlee looks good so far; he helped extend light rail to the northeast; almost 50,000 more Mecklenburg residents are employed today than in 2009; thousands remain homeless.
Above all, Foxx was an effective voice for Charlotte, and he approached the job in a way that helped the whole community pull together and begin to emerge from tough economic times. He helped bridge some of the divides that at times threaten this growing and diversifying city.
Born and raised in Charlotte, hell continue to represent the area in his new role. And wed be surprised if hes not back here before very long, looking for the next way to serve this region and state.