Dem. Freeman-Wilson 1st female mayor in Gary
November 8, 2011 (GARY, Ind.) (WLS) -- Former Indiana Attorney General Karen Freeman-Wilson will be the first woman to lead the struggling city of Gary.
Freeman-Wilson easily defeated Republican Charles Smith Jr. Tuesday in the race to succeed Mayor Rudy Clay, who did not seek re-election because of health problems.
"I think I bring relationships to the table that have not necessarily been brought to this table before," said Freeman-Wilson. "Our opportunities far outweigh our challenges, and so what this represents for us is really a new day."
Freeman-Wilson is the first woman elected mayor in Gary, Indiana. She's also the first female, African-American mayor in the entire state.
As Gary's new mayor, the 51-year-old Harvard-educated attorney faces crippling unemployment, economic stagnation, and a $10 millionbudget hole. But as a former attorney general, Freeman-Wilson hopes to marshal state and federal resources.
Her ideas include selling city-owned vacant properties for next to nothing in the hopes of spurring investment and returning those properties to the tax rolls. Freeman-Wilson also aims to secure federal funding for infrastructure improvements and new equipment for the fire and police departments, which have been hard hit with layoffs.
"I think there are other people who will come forward and be willing to work with her and help her make those changes that we need to make, said Mary Brown, Gary City Council member.
Freeman-Wilson says Gary would be the perfect spot for a new rail hub saying location remains a strength of the city.
"We have some of the greatest transportation assets of any community in the country," she said.
Freeman-Wilson was endorsed by current mayor Rudy Clay, who is retiring, and her Republican opponent says success depends upon rising above machine politics.
"If she can move outside of the politics, of the political machine of Lake County, Indiana she can do great things for Gary, Indiana," said Smith, Jr.
Gary has not elected a Republican mayor since 1938, and Freeman-Wilson.
Before Tuesday's election, only 11 of the state's 119 cities had female mayors.
Freeman-Wilson's election came on her third try for the office. She also ran for Gary mayor in 2003 and 2007.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
indiana news, eric horng
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