5 New Mayors to Watch This Year

The incoming city leaders who will shape urban policy from Atlanta to Seattle.

Atlanta mayoral candidate (now mayor) Keisha Lance Bottoms talks during an election-night watch party in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

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Following a number of late-in-the-year elections (and recounts), new mayors will take charge in some of the country’s most influential cities this year. Here’s a look at the campaign promises and track records of these newbies, who will shape urban policy from Atlanta to Seattle.

Atlanta, Georgia

Incoming: Keisha Lance Bottoms
Outgoing: Kasim Reed

Bottoms was sworn in on Tuesday, following a close race (she won by only 821 votes) that triggered a recount. Reed endorsed the former councilwoman, and many of her priorities dovetail with his legacy, including inclusionary zoning and raising funds for affordable housing. But though a loyal ally of Reed’s on the council, she sought to distance herself from him in the days leading up to the recount, according to the AJC. In the last week of November, she unveiled a major ethics package (including an independently funded officer) to enforce transparency rules at City Hall. The move represented a shift, since she’d previously defended Reed’s administration against charges of corruption.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Incoming: Tim Keller
Outgoing: Richard J. Berry

New Mayor Tim Keller was sworn in in December after a landslide victory. The Albuquerque Journal calls the former State Auditor and senator a “progressive Democrat with a reputation for working across the political aisle,” and lists, among his goals, centralizing the city’s many governments.

“[W]e have the Water Authority, we have AMAFCA, we have MRCOG, the City Council has its own planning department,” he recently told the paper. “And basically we have nine cities, one for each council district.”

Keller’s victory was lauded as a victory for Democrats nationwide, since he took over from former mayor Richard J. Berry, a Republican (who did not seek re-election) and beat Republican contender Dan Lewis. Keller has said that he wants to put a greater emphasis on community policing, hire more officers and fire the city’s police chief.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Incoming: Melvin Carter
Outgoing: Chris Coleman

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (Credit: Melvin Carter for St. Paul)

Carter, sworn in Tuesday, became the midwestern city’s first black mayor, Fox 9 reports. His speech highlighted the city’s many racial inequities, and placed them in the context of that infamous New Deal-era decision to build a freeway through the primarily black Rondo neighborhood.

“We’re afraid equity means turning our back on those who are doing well; That bikes, density and transit will change our neighborhoods; That supporting workers will hurt business, and supporting teachers will hurt students,” he said. “We’re afraid of having to choose — between preserving the traditions our parents loved and building the city our children deserve.”

But Carter faces a number of challenges as mayor, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports. The city hasn’t been able to grow its economic base successfully, and runs the risk of becoming a bedroom community to Minneapolis. And tensions between the police force and residents of color are at an all-time high after the police shooting of a Philando Castile.

Miami, Florida

Incoming: Francis Suarez
Outgoing: Tomás Regalado

A Republican like former mayor Tomás Regalado, Suarez’ agenda is never-the-less big on climate change and economic inequality. After securing 86 percent of the vote in the November election, Suarez promised to make Miami “the most resilient city in the world,” according to the Miami Herald, and touched on the many challenges of sea-level rise that already face the coastal metropolis. He’s also promised to address affordability issues and economic inequality, positions that set him apart from Regalado, who had more traditionally Republican priorities centered on taxes and balancing the city budget.

Seattle, Washington

Incoming: Jenny Durkan
Outgoing: Tim Burgess

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle’s mayoral seat has been in flux since Ed Murray resigned last September over sexual abuse allegations. Durkan, who served as U.S. Attorney for Western Washington under President Barack Obama, has a pretty typical Democratic urban agenda. She wants to create more affordable housing by focusing on the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability requirement and rent vouchers, among other tactics. She’s promised she’ll tackle homelessness, provide free college tuition (for certain kinds of institutions) and improve bus service. But Durkan’s moderate progressive agenda may clash with the socialist bent of Seattle’s City Council. As Forbes recently reported, Durkan and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will likely go head-to-head over rent control in the coming months.

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: mayors

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