Mayor Vi Lyles Is On A Mission To Make Charlotte A Great City For Everyone
Courtesy of Vi Lyles
You wouldn’t guess it from her personable manner, poised campaign ads or stirring public speeches, but if you ask Mayor Vi Lyles she’ll tell you — she’s a self-proclaimed introvert. The last year spent serving the people of Charlotte, North Carolina has been as much about her personal development as an unabashed leader as it’s been about strategically grooming Charlotte to be a city that is comfortable and safe for everyone who resides there. “I’ve had a really wonderful career. I’ve raised a family, and have grandchildren now,” Lyles shares with ESSENCE on a recent trip to Washington D.C. “But yet, every day I think how can I grow to be better, and what could I’ve done differently to make sure that we deliver on our commitment to the people that live in our city that it will be a place that they will be able to function and work and live. I think about that a lot.” As the CEO of Charlotte, much of what the city is or becomes is dependent upon the decisions that Lyles makes. Understanding that, the former budget director and the assistant city manager is using 2019 to prioritize the affordable housing crisis that is steadily evolving into a major concern for a number of her constituents. “We’re having great growth, but with that growth, we have to have places that people can live at all price points,” the former Essence Woke 100 honoree explains. “And so, we focused on what I would call the 80 percent and below the average median income for Charlotte, to be able to provide people that come here and have a decent job a decent place to live. Our biggest challenge is doing that for people that make the very lowest of the wages, $7, $8 an hour. But, it’s both an opportunity, and a challenge.” Tackling problems head-on is something the native South Carolinian who once served as Charlotte’s city administrator, has not shied away from. Due to the low number of grant approvals and fewer people to talk to about policy issues, Lyles admits that operating in tandem with the current White House has been very difficult for her urban community. But as the first African-American woman mayor of the city, she is creating tangible solutions that are bettering her community. Under her leadership, Fortune 100 company, Honeywell has decided to move its headquarters to Charlotte, large events have selected the destination to play host city, and in November, a $50 million-dollar housing bond that she proposed and advocated for to help the cities lowest-income housing needs, was passed by voters.

Months before one of the most crucial mid-term elections of our time in a year that saw an unprecedented number of Black women across the country stepping into the political space, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Gary Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson joined forces for an empowering conversation at the Convention Center.

Lyles insists that even though there has been a lack of acknowledgment from the Oval Office for the hard work being done and progress being made, she is working overtime to communicate to the Federal Government and the current administration, that Charlotte is a place that is interested in collaborating. Working together and communicating effectively is what Lyles wants — and campaigned for— on the federal level, but also in her local “Queen City.” Before deciding to put her name in the hat for mayor, she confesses that negative conversations in the community led her to believe that Charlotte was losing its edge. “We were losing the ability to be a great place, and that’s just not true,” Lyles insists. “The first time I ran, I would go out and I’d tell people, ‘I love this city in a very tangible way, a way that you can see it and feel it.’ And I didn’t think that was happening. That love wasn’t showing, and right now I feel a lot better about it.” Lyles has a lot of love to give and will be sharing more of it as a participating mayor in the ESSENCE x Policy Link All-In Cities Initiative. Through this program, the proud mom and doting grandmother (just check out her social media) will collaborate with other Black women mayors around the country, who are leading some of Americas largest municipalities. “Sisterhood is a powerful thing, and we’ve got a sisterhood of African-American mayors. And we can rely on each other. We can challenge each other. We can lift each other up,” Lyles says of her involvement. “We talk about efforts that we’re undertaking to improve people’s lives. We talk about numbers, and we talk about money. Those are the things that really are important, but we do it in a way that is a dialogue for learning and working together. And we’re making a difference in our cities.” TOPICS: