Flint voters have elected Karen Weaver as the city’s first woman mayor, bouncing Dayne Walling from office after six years by a convincing margin.
Weaver, a clinical psychologist and small business owner, received 55 percent of the votes cast (7,825) in the election Tuesday, Nov. 3, compared to 43 percent (6,061) for Walling.
In the process, she made history, becoming the first woman elected to the city’s top job since Flint was incorporated in 1855.
Weaver takes over the office of mayor at 12 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, according to the city charter.
“I’m excited because we talked about all of us having a seat at the table. That’s what had been missing,” Weaver told a cheering crowd of supporters at Raspberries Rhythm Cafe. “I said I was going to be a mayor for all of Flint, (and) that’s what we are going to do.”
Former state Rep. and ex-Flint Mayor Woodrow Stanley introduced Weaver as mayor-elect at her victory party, saying her election marked a milestone for her supporters.
“We started on a journey some time ago to make sure that we took our voice back at City Hall and the vehicle (to do that) is Dr. Karen Weaver,” Stanley said.
Walling thanked his supporters and telephoned Weaver as her victory became increasingly apparent as precinct after precinct reported voting results as the night wore on.
The incumbent, who has been mayor since 2009, made no comments to reporters or any public concession of his defeat after predicting victory to his supporters earlier in the evening at Tom Z’s coney island restaurant on Court Street.
Walling was hit hard by Weaver during the campaign for his role in the decision to use the Flint River as the city’s water source in April 2014 even though the decision was made while a state-appointed emergency manager was running the city.
Walling joined in a ceremony celebrating the switch, toasting with Flint River water and was among city officials who assured residents of the safety and quality of the water supply until recently.
After testing showed increasing levels of lead in Flint water, Walling said he privately argued against the change, which led to a public health emergency and eventually, a return to purchasing water from the Detroit water system.
A political novice, Weaver called for a federal investigation into the Flint water crisis and many of the citizens who were active in demanding an end to the use of the river joined in her campaign.
Weaver, 56, also appeared to carry over her own support from the August primary election and to take the majority of the votes that went to other candidates who finished behind her and Walling in that race once the campaign narrowed to a one-on-one contest.
A graduate of Flint Northern High School who received her doctorate from Michigan State University, Weaver has said she plans to conduct an in-depth analysis of City Hall operations during her first 90 days in office with the review aimed at finding ways to eliminate waste and duplication of services.
During the campaign, she advocated for stepped-up economic development efforts in order to increase income tax revenues and provide jobs for city residents.
The mayor’s job in Flint has changed in recent years because of the state’s involvement in running the city since Gov. Rick Snyder declared a financial emergency here in 2011.
Since that time, Snyder has appointed a succession of four emergency managers to run the city.
Although the last of those managers left Flint earlier this year, a Receivership Transition Advisory Board remains, as does a city administrator with broad powers and more than four years remaining on a contract signed by former emergency manager Darnell Earley.
An emergency manager’s order signed in April gives City Administrator Natasha Henderson the authority to recommend, subject to the mayor’s approval, the appointment of the police chief, fire chief, finance director, planning and development director, public works director, chief legal officer and chief personnel officer.
The administrator — not the mayor — also oversees all department heads, division heads, managers and non-elected city employees, according to that emergency manager’s order.
The unofficial results from Tuesday’s election showed 13,982 city residents voted compared to more than 15,000 when Walling was elected to his first full term as mayor in 2011.
In Walling’s first election as mayor in 2009, more than 19,000 votes were cast.