Charlottesville chooses new mayor and vice mayor

Photo courtesy: WCAV (Nikuyah Walker third from right)
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) The two newest members of Charlottesville City Council were elected as the new mayor and vice mayor of Charlottesville.

Councilors voted Nikuyah Walker as mayor and Heather Hill as vice mayor.

Walker is the first independent candidate to be on the council since 1948.

Walker said she doesn't traditionally follow the rules but is ready to take on this challenge.

"I go into a room and I challenge immediately," said Walker. "I challenge myself and I challenge other people."

Councilor Kathy Galvin didn't vote for Walker. She said the position needs someone with experience, but in the end, in a 4-1 vote, Walker was elected.

"I believe that it is important that we understand that the mayor is the chair of the board. The mayor is nothing more than that and it's also very critically important in that regard," said Galvin. "So I do think that experience matters."

In a 3-2 vote, city council voted Heather Hill the new vice mayor. Wes Bellamy and Nikuyah Walker were the two who didn't vote for Hill.

Former Charlottesville Mayor, Mike Signer, and Councilor Wes Bellamy engaged in a heated debate before the vice mayor vote. They debated about the symbolism of having two African American leaders in the community. Signer said this can't be the only factor in their decision.

"My first speech as mayor is that I'm not aiming at symbolic victories, so I've never aimed at doing that," said Signer. "I don't think that's the right way to make a decision like that and that's not why I voted for Ms. Walker."

Walker said she is ready to work hard in her new role alongside her fellow council members.

"I never looked at it as I'm above anyone else," said Walker. "There's just a few additional duties and whatever they are, I'll figure them out."

The next city council meeting will be on Jan. 16.