Charlotte mayor hopes leadership benefits future generations

Charlotte mayor hopes leadership benefits future generations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Leading the nation’s 16th largest city is no easy task. That’s been especially true over the past two years. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is in her second term guiding the city on issues like affordable housing, jobs and reigniting a pandemic-stricken local economy. But we recently spent a day with her to get a look at how she handles it all.


What You Need To Know

Vi Lyles is in her second term as Charlotte mayor

Affordable housing, jobs and mobility are some of the issues she’s most passionate about

She has announced plans to run for a third term


Most are probably familiar with seeing her behind the dais presiding over a formal city council meeting inside the chambers at the Charlotte–Mecklenburg Government Center.

“There are two places that you can say I’m happiest,” she said. While her office atop the government center is a close third, she’s referring to her three grandchildren.

“One’s in Charlotte with the two grandgirls that are 6 and 3, and the other one is in D.C. and she’s 5,” she said.

Pictures of them surround the place where the family matriarch drills down on city policy.

“They’re my joy,” she said.

But she also says they’re her inspiration when it comes to being a leader.

“As mayor, it’s not about today, it’s about the generation that’s gonna come,” the mayor added. 

A typical day, as she leads a city of nearly 900,000 people, usually involves fitting in a speaking event.

“We’re gonna go to the Good Friends luncheon,” she said as she put her coat on for the quick trip over to the Charlotte Convention Center.

But during the course of that busy day Lyles was willing to talk about some of the year’s more challenging moments, such as worsening crime in Charlotte. We spoke just a day after a lunchtime shooting in the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, which is the heart of Uptown Charlotte.

“How does someone go to the middle of our center city and pull out a gun and shoot into a car?” the mayor asked.

As city leaders try to tackle violence, the city of Charlotte has spent the last year focused on interrupting it.

“People that get shot, usually go immediately to retaliate against the person, and we are trying to provide counseling and a support system that they don’t do that,” she explained.

It was candid time with the mayor and a chance to ask her about some of the last year’s more contentious moments on council.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Bokhari, really, why do you have to insert your commentary in my remarks?” the mayor asked the councilman during a heated council meeting earlier in the year. “I didn’t ask you about that. I’m sorry, but, it’s just not right to interrupt all the time.”

She and Republican councilman Tariq Bokhari have publicly butted heads several times throughout 2021. The disagreements have been over topics ranging from the 2040 Comprehensive Plan to the mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative announced in November. Bokhari alleged the mayor and city manager Marcus Jones misrepresented federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars as that initiative.

“That has nothing to do with this $10 million that literally we were tricked into voting for so that they could stand on that stage and call it the mayor’s initiative and call it a public-private partnership,” Bokhari said during another city council meeting.

He called it an illegal vote.

“Well, that was a term that he used,” Lyles said. “It is not an illegal vote.”

As we walked through uptown heading back to her office, the mayor admitted, in that instance, she was less than fully transparent with council members.

“I’m about process and people, and in this case I wasn’t perfect, and it’s OK to understand that,” she said.

She says she doesn’t hide from mistakes.

“As a lifelong learner you try to deal with it and the next time be better at it,” Lyles added.

By the time we arrived back at her office, it was time for a Zoom call dealing with a passion project of hers.

“Where we talk about building great neighborhoods and affordable housing,” she explained. As mayor of one of the nation’s fastest growing cities she has a lot on her list.

“Housing, jobs, and ability to move around the city, and that’s where my focus is,” she said.

The mayor has announced that she plans to run for re-election to a third term. But she is already thinking about the legacy she leaves.

“I want to be remembered as someone who made a vision come true with funding, and policy and sustainability, that respects people’s opinion and seeks understanding,” Lyles said.

We’ll learn if she will face any opposition when candidate filing is held some time next year. As some may know, the N.C. Supreme Court suspended filing and pushed the primary from back from March to May.

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