Charlotte mayoral endorsement: What you might not know about Vi Lyles

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles registers for re-election

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles registers for re-election, surrounded by supporters, at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. Lyles touted her housing initiatives during her first term and continued plans for her second term.
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Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles registers for re-election, surrounded by supporters, at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. Lyles touted her housing initiatives during her first term and continued plans for her second term.

There’s a lot you probably don’t know about Vi Lyles, including this: Last year, Charlotte was among the cities competing in the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. The competition is a bit of a big deal in environmental circles, with 25 winning cities sharing $70 million to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change and promote sustainability. Among the competing cities, Charlotte had at least one advantage: Vi Lyles was a known quantity to Michael Bloomberg. She’s among a group of U.S. mayors who has worked with Bloomberg’s foundation to address issues facing cities. If she wanted to, she could pick up the phone and expect a call back from the billionaire.

So last December, Bloomberg joined Lyles at UNC Charlotte to announce Charlotte was one of the Climate Challenge’s winning cities.

It’s one of the many ways our city has benefited from the behind the scenes work of its mayor. In her first term, Vi Lyles has helped Charlotte repair relationships with previously hostile lawmakers in Raleigh. She’s helped the City Council navigate through the potential choppiness of new, bold voices mixing with veteran members. She’s strengthened the city’s relationship with its corporate community. She has earned a second term as mayor.

Lyles is heavily favored to get it. Her Democratic primary opponents include three perennial candidates who have never held office, Lucille Puckett, Roderick Davis and Tigress McDaniel. The most impressive challenger to Lyles is Joel Odom, a bright 20-year-old candidate who brings an intimate knowledge of the issues facing struggling neighborhoods. Odom told the editorial board he’s running on behalf of people who’ve been forgotten in Charlotte’s economic boom. “I live the issues,” he said, citing affordable housing, crime and displaced families among his priorities. If his bid for mayor is unsuccessful, we hope Odom continues to pursue public office or community service.

The lack of more established candidates in the race — another perennial candidate, David Michael Rice, is the only Republican running — is a testament to Lyles’ strong first term. She has been the right mayor following the tumultuous tenure of predecessor Jennifer Roberts, and Lyles’ low-drama approach to her job and council meetings has been appreciated by Charlotte’s business and recruiting community. Still, Charlotte remains a progressive city under Lyles, and she’s kept a 2017 campaign promise by leading the city and council to early successes in building a financial and structural foundation to tackle affordable housing.

We haven’t agreed with all the mayor has done. We think Lyles was less forthcoming than she should’ve been about significant funding shortfalls for the Cross Charlotte Trail, and more importantly, we believe bringing the 2020 Republican National Convention to Charlotte is a move with more risk than payoff. Still, even those wary of RNC 2020 should acknowledge that welcoming the convention has helped changed how Republicans in Raleigh see Charlotte leadership, and lawmakers tell the editorial board that Lyles has worked to improve the relationship even further.

Beyond the convention, Lyles would face other significant challenges in her second term. Affordable housing is just one piece of the equity challenge, and Lyles told the editorial board last week that another piece, transportation, will be a focus for her. That work has already begun, quietly for now. That’s the mayor’s way of doing things, and so far, it’s working.


Charlotte Observer editorial board members Peter St. Onge and Kevin Siers are conducting interviews of City Council, mayoral and CMS Board of Education candidates in contested primary and general election races. The editorial board also talks with others who know the candidates and have worked with them. When we’ve completed our interviews and research, we discuss each race and, in consultation with Publisher Rodney Mahone, decide on our endorsements.