Jennifer Roberts took the oath of office Monday night, becoming Charlotte’s fifth mayor in three years and pledging to make a city where “opportunity would be more than a dream.”
In a speech after being sworn in, Roberts discussed a number of broad visions for the city. She said she wants to nurture women- and minority-owned businesses, to build more affordable housing and to set a “budget priority” to ensure there are enough police officers.
Roberts mentioned two specific things she wants to achieve.
The first is to convene what she calls a “summit” on how to improve after-school programs. During her campaign, Roberts said she wants to raise private money to create an organization to evaluate after-school programs, which are run today by a number of nonprofits.
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“The is no group or organization in charge of assessing (after-school programs),” she said. “I will convene a summit on after-school time to ensure all children have access to quality programs.”
Roberts also said she would work to ensure “non-discrimination for the LGBT community.” That is a reference to the City Council’s likely vote in early 2016 on whether to expand the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include gay, lesbian and transgender residents.
Many of the people attending the ceremony in the council chamber were lobbying the city for a minimum wage of $15 an hour for city workers.
The city’s lowest paid full-time workers today earn $13 an hour. During her campaign, Roberts said she wanted to raise the minimum pay to $15 an hour, though she didn’t mention that during her speech.
▪ Council members elected Vi Lyles for the mostly ceremonial title of mayor pro tem, who conducts meetings when the mayor is absent.
That position has often gone to the at-large council member who receives the most votes. This year, that was first-time candidate Julie Eiselt.
But Lyles lobbied council members for the job, and 10 of 11 members voted to nominate her.
Republican council member Kenny Smith criticized that decision. He nominated council member Patsy Kinsey.
“We will not follow historical precedent (and select the top vote-getter),” Smith said. “To me this feels like a back room deal, and I won’t support it. It breaks trust.”
Eiselt said it had been a “long-standing tradition” that the top vote-getter be mayor pro tem.
But she said she wanted to focus on learning “the duties of office.”
▪ Monday was the final meeting for three elected city officials.
Dan Clodfelter was appointed mayor in April 2014 after former mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested. He lost to Roberts in the Democratic run-off for mayor in October.
Two at-large council members, Michael Barnes and David Howard, also left council. Barnes had served since 2005 and was the longest serving council member. Howard was first elected in 2009.
Both ran for mayor and lost.
▪ The city announced Monday that it has hired a member of Roberts’ campaign team, Gregg Watkins, as a communications aide assigned to Roberts. The city said it would be a six-month position, and then the city would make a full-time hire.
Ashley Simmons had previously been the mayor’s communications assistant. She has been reassigned to another communications position.