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Charlotte gets 2nd female mayor as Foxx resigns

Democrat Patsy Kinsey is the new mayor of Charlotte – the second woman to hold the job – after the City Council on Monday chose her to replace Anthony Foxx, who will become the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Kinsey, 72, will be mayor until December, when a new mayor is sworn in after the fall elections.

Kinsey was a close political ally of Foxx during his nearly four years as mayor. Like Foxx, she has been an ardent supporter of the streetcar, and she supported an $816 million capital plan that Foxx also backed.

“I am humbled and honored to be mayor,” Kinsey said during brief remarks after being sworn in.

After Foxx resigned Monday in a special meeting, the City Council moved swiftly to elevate Kinsey into the top elected post with a 6-2 vote, even though council members could have waited days or weeks to allow more people to apply.

Claire Fallon, a Democrat, voted against the move because she said the city should give more people an opportunity to seek the job.

“It’s not fair to the community,” said Fallon, who was joined by Democrat Beth Pickering in voting no.

When asked about Fallon’s criticism that the process was rushed, Kinsey said, “I honor that opinion.” She added, “Right now it’s important for the city to have continuity.”

Kinsey will not run for mayor. But she said she plans to again seek her District 1 council seat, which she held since 2003 and vacated Monday.

For the next six months, Kinsey will receive a boost in pay. The mayor’s job pays $40,000 a year in salary, expenses and allowances. Council members receive about $30,000 overall.

The City Council must now find a replacement for Kinsey in District 1. The city has proposed that any interested candidates – they must be Democrats and live in the district – apply by July 15.

Quiet yet skeptical

Kinsey, who served on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners from 1990 to 1994, is one of the council’s quietest members. She rarely, if ever, makes political speeches from the dais.

On one of her more passionate issues – extending city health benefits to same-sex partners – Kinsey worked behind the scenes.

Though she often voted in support of Foxx’s agenda, Kinsey did not always follow his lead.

One issue that will be decided during her tenure as mayor is a new policy designed to set aside some future housing units at transit stations for low-income residents, while encouraging more market-rate housing to be built.

Kinsey last week asked that the proposal be deferred. She did not like a provision that would allow 100 percent of residential units in one building of a complex to be subsidized.

On the other hand, Foxx said he would have vetoed the entire plan because he felt it made it too difficult to build low-income housing.

During Foxx’s time as mayor, he pushed council members to expand the scope and size of city financial incentives to persuade companies to relocate to Charlotte or expand their operations.

Closed-session minutes show that Kinsey was often a skeptic of such deals. She voted in closed session in 2011 against giving Chiquita Brands International millions of city dollars to help offset the company’s moving expenses.

She also voted against financial incentives for United Technologies and providing $8 million for a new baseball stadium uptown. Initially, Kinsey was firmly against providing the Carolina Panthers with millions of city dollars to improve Bank of America Stadium, though she ultimately voted for the deal.

The city slows down in July and August, with fewer meetings and less business being conducted.

But Kinsey, as mayor, must still monitor the status of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. An effort by some GOP legislators in Raleigh to transfer the airport from city control to an independent authority has stalled, though it could be revived.

Voters will pick a new full-time mayor in November. Among the leading candidates, declared and likely to run: Democrats Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon and District 2 representative James Mitchell, and former council member Edwin Peacock, a Republican.

Kinsey is the second woman to serve as Charlotte mayor. Republican Sue Myrick, who was mayor from 1987 to 1991, was the first.

Kinsey said she is ready for the demands of the job. “I have taken phone calls (from constituents) at 2:30 a.m. before,” she said.

She said she also is “comfortable around this dais.”

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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