The impact of the election of several African Americans in Meck County

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - People are weighing in on the impact of several key positions in Mecklenburg County government being held by African Americans.

The recent election made history - for the first time in the county, there is an elected African sheriff and district attorney. Those positions, coupled with the Charlotte Mayor, City Manager, Fire Chief, Police Chief, and other leaders being African American, are raising high expectations.

Many hope with African American leaders in charge, economic mobility will happen faster. A Harvard University/UC Berkeley study shows Charlotte is 50 out of 50 in the country when it comes to economic mobility.

"The African American community and the larger Charlotte community should expect to see the needle move with the upward mobility," Charlotte Political Activist Colette Forrest said.

Forrest campaigned for several African American candidates who recently won.

"They are qualified. They are competent. They will do their job," Forrest said, "but they will also bring a sensitivity and a unique perspective because they are African American."

Forrest believes the winners will be able to attack sensitive issues and look at matters with a different view than their predecessors and come up with solutions.

"They should expect to see the disparaging numbers we see as single mothers about our African American boys, the incarceration our children face," Forrest said.

Eric Heberlig is a Political Science Professor in UNC Charlotte. He says there has been a shift in the demographics in Charlotte over the past few years. He believes that has helped more African Americans get elected.

"Certainly race matters in terms of how people vote," Heberlig said, "but it's not the only factor. People want leaders who are effective - who deliver on their promises -  who create economic growth - who can keep crime down."

Heberlig says it's OK for the African American community to expect results and help from newly elected leaders, but warns the African American leaders should be accountable to all who voted for them.

"If those officeholders only cater to their community," Heberlig said, "they're just inviting challengers in the next election I think."

Forrest says change will take time, but hopes voters engage the new leaders and tell them their ideas so economic mobility can happen sooner rather than later.

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