In a moment possibly indicative of the “New South” observers are talking about, barriers are quietly being torn down on the Charlotte, North Carolina city council. As the city enjoys a lift of national notoriety from the arrival of the Democratic National Convention in 2012, it’s also witnessing history within its local politics.
Charlotte just swore in its first LGBT council member recently. LaWana Mayfield, a Democrat, was elected to represent the city’s 3rd district in the November contest. Mayfield’s partner, Gelisa Stitt, and Stitt’s mother attended the ceremony with her.
Mayfield, who has a long record of community involvement, is keeping the focus on serving her constituents and working on their needs. She made brief comments after her swearing in ceremony.
“We are servants and I hope to serve my district with respect and continue the growth that the previous representative started,” Mayfield said.
“I need all of your help, all of you at home. I need you to show up and I need to hear your voices and ideas and concerns, and I will do my best to make sure those ideas and concerns are heard around this dais,” she added.
Mayfield was sworn in alongside her 10 fellow council members and Mayor Anthony Foxx, who is starting his second term. All officials will serve two-year terms.
Mayfield’s election comes amid a time of increased national spotlight for the Greater Charlotte area. The Democratic National Convention will make its way to Queen City at the beginning of September 2012 for a week. This is where some of the nation’s top Democrats will gather to presumably nominate President Barack Obama for a second term in the White House.
Possibly the city’s most high-profile event ever, it will also be a chance for elected officials to showcase key sections of the city while sharing their accomplishments.
Focused at the local level, Mayfield was able to identify some of the strengths and challenges facing her district. She sat down for an in-depth interview with YouTube personality Paul Brown in September.
“I’m a community organizer. I love identifying resources .. [and] standing side-by-side [to help] my community with issues,” Mayfield said. She referred to her work as her “passion” that God has given her.
Now that she’s been elected, Mayfield wants to bring stability to real estate values, focus on solid economic development, and keep the community safe. She described her district as one with potential for additional investment if the area is marketed properly to businesses. Her district encompasses much of west and southwest Charlotte, including Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and some major interstates in the city.
Issues such as crime affect any major city the size of Charlotte. Mayfield’s district is no stranger to dealing with these challenges. However, she pointed to some positive figures in sections of her area where crime appears on a steady decline. Cleaning up the broken windows, Mayfield argues that it’s just as important to help tell the turnaround story in the area just as quickly as media wants to report on the negative.
And Mayfield doesn’t just talk about her area, she lives in it. Her home of 11 years is also in her district. It seems that her dedication to the neighborhood has finally put her in one of the best positions to advocate for it.