Black women make history after elected as mayor in 3 NC towns: 'True Shift'

Jamiese Price Image
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Black women make history after elected mayor in 3 NC towns
In Butner, Carrboro and Henderson, voters' choices changed history.

BUTNER, N.C. (WTVD) -- In the small towns of Butner, Carrboro, and Henderson the mayor has never been a Black woman, until a few months ago, when voters for the first time elected three Black women to lead their communities forward.

ABC11 sat down with the newly elected mayors as they start a new legacy of Black women in leadership

"It's wonderful to have an aspiration, and it actually happens," said Mayor of Henderson Melissa Elliott.

"You know, I wrote a book prior to my election and it said in my book, it was like, So what's next for Melissa? And I said, I'm going to be the mayor," she reflected.

From writing it down to reality. After a hotly contested and at times controversial race Elliott now leads Henderson, where 63% of the people in the city are Black.

"You have to understand. 14 decades, 142 years of just men and so now here I'm on the scene. Not only am I a woman, but I'm a Black woman. That's double history. It's also a double threat if you look at it and when you deal with people that have been maximizing off of poor folk. I have a voice and I'm going to use it and so I'm an advocate, a strong advocate," Elliott explained.

A true shift. In recent years, more voters across the country and here in North Carolina are electing Black women as mayors for the first time ever, an indicator voters want more Black voices at the table. "That is a perspective that needs to be at tables in the community when there are important conversations around housing, race, equity, transportation, economic development."

Carrboro Mayor Barbara Foushee is a scientist in a molecular oncology lab in RTP by day. Inside her office in town hall, she has a note from a third grader hanging on her wall. A reminder, of why this may be her most important role so far. "She wrote, remember me, the little black girl that you called up to sit at the desk for the mock town council meeting. And I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She was looking at me just in complete amazement, you know, that I am sitting here with a Black woman mayor," shared Foushee.

Examples for the next generation of leaders. But also, inspiring women to lead. "Let's not wait around for someone else to get the job done. Let's get out there and do it ourselves. And I've seen more women be entrepreneurs as well as stepping up to the plate to be in public service," said Mayor of Butner Dr. Linda Jordon.

Jordon spent 30 years in corporate America before making the transition to public service. She said it's not always easy being a woman in leadership "The main challenge is being heard," said Jordan.

"Sometimes you have to make your voice or your concern three or four times before someone hears that message. But if they don't listen the first time, just continue doing it. Don't take a step back," she continued.

Mayors Jordon , Elliott, and Foushee were the first in their community, but want to ensure they're not the last. "I want my legacy to be that there's a leader in the community who is inclusive, who wants to allow people to have their voices heard," said Jordan.

"At the end of the day, that's what I want to be remembered. As the lady that encouraged, inspired, and motivated others to become better," Elliott reflected.

When Mayor Foushee was asked what she hopes her legacy will be. Here's how she responded. "That I was here, that I worked in this community to make it better."

The mayors said they never set out to make history. It wasn't top of mind. They shared their focus at the time was their elections and serving the community. It took days for the history making moment to settle in.