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Foxx: I worked my ‘tail off’ for Charlotte

Moments after saying he had “worked his tail off to make the city everything it could be,” Anthony Foxx resigned as mayor of Charlotte on Monday. He left the Government Center as colleagues and residents cheered and applauded his service.

Foxx, first elected to the City Council in 2005, became mayor in 2009. He stepped down with five months left in his second term to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as U.S. secretary of transportation. He could be sworn in as early as Tuesday.

Council member Patsy Kinsey, a fellow Democrat, was elevated by council members to become mayor until December. Kinsey is the second woman to serve as Charlotte’s mayor: Sue Myrick served from 1987 to 1991.

In his parting address, Foxx cited the 1 Corinthians as inspiration for running for office. After reading from the Bible passage, which states that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud …,” Foxx said it was his “love of the community that made me seek out (a spot) on the City Council.”

He then discussed his time in office. As a council member, he said he worked to pass a budget that “put more police officers on the street … and put the most significant bond package in place.”

Foxx, 42, said the decision to hire more police led to “historic lows in our crime rate.”

“When I decided to run for mayor in 2009, I knew there would be not one easy day in this office,” Foxx said. “The psychology of our city was damaged (because of the economic downturn). …We have taken a community from negative job growth to positive job growth.”

Beatties Ford to City Hall

Foxx, who grew up off Beatties Ford Road and graduated from West Charlotte High and Davidson College, also outlined how the city is at an important crossroads. Because it can no longer grow through annexation, Foxx believes the city must make older, less affluent neighborhoods more attractive for new development to grow the tax base.

He has said that the recently passed $816 million capital plan and a $126 million streetcar plan will help spark economic development. In Monday’s farewell speech, Foxx said the streetcar is close to becoming a reality, “thanks to a couple of folks having a moment of enlightenment.”

He was referring to the decision by Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon and council member Beth Pickering to support the streetcar after they had been against a plan to build it with property taxes. The streetcar had consumed much of Foxx’s second term.

Looking to the future

Foxx considered running for governor last year, and there has been speculation he might run in 2016 or 2020 after serving in the president’s Cabinet. His farewell speech also criticized a decision by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-controlled General Assembly to curtail federal employment benefits for the long-term unemployed in the state.

“Today is the day for 70,000 people across the state and for 7,000 people in Mecklenburg who are losing unemployment insurance,” Foxx said.

In an interview with the Observer before his final meeting, Foxx said he never doubted that two of his signature accomplishments – the capital plan and the streetcar – would pass. Foxx spent months wrangling with council members over those two items. “I’m proud I toughed it out,” Foxx said.

He added: “Like the Bible says, faith is the substance of things hoped for.”

When he announced he would not run for a third term as mayor in April, Foxx said he didn’t want to be “mayor for life” and that he wanted to be able to spend more time with his family. As mayor, Foxx spent far more than 40 hours a week on the job.

“I made my decision in April independent of the administration,” he said. “I knew when I wake up in the morning I have 100 percent energy and focus. … There is a point when you have pushed the thing to the limit.”

When asked whether he will be able to spend time with his family while working for the president, Foxx said he is motivated to do things “for the love of Charlotte and for the love of country.”

He added laughing: “My family tolerates me.”

James Mitchell, one of Foxx’s closest allies on the City Council, said Foxx worked tirelessly. “It could be 11:30, midnight, 1 o’clock, and he’s on the phone, talking about one thing – what’s best for the city of Charlotte,” he said. “We are truly losing a young man who grew up right before us.”

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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