DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – It was a historic night in Durham as Elaine O’Neal was sworn in as the city’s first Black female mayor.
O’Neal is taking over as the city has its deadliest year. The 43 homicides as of Nov. 15 passed the record set in 2016.
“Our parents should not have to worry if their children are safe while playing at the neighborhood park,” O’Neal said. “Our elderly residents should not have to live in fear of bullets coming through their homes, and our students must be able to go to school and learn in a safe environment. Enough of the guns, enough of the shootings, enough of the killings.”
The city also has a shortage of police officers, with 80 department vacancies.
She said details on her 100-day plan will be discussed in a news conference on Wednesday.
In her remarks, O’Neal said the city needs to support youth with recreational, physical, and mental health services. She also wants to increase access and reduce barriers to government services that can help immigrant families.
Antonio Jones chairs the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. He said the group is committed to supporting the new mayor and council.
“Perhaps in the first 100 days we’ll see some real change,” Jones said.
When it comes to addressing gun violence, Jones wants to see more job training and closing of skills gaps through additional services for youth and people in need.
“We gotta get to the root cause,” Jones said.
Jones also wants to see the new mayor focus on gang violence, affordable housing, and economic development for neighborhoods that lack resources.
“How do you impact them, not only on Main Street but on my street,” Jones said.
Two re-elected Durham City Council Members were also sworn in, Ward I Council Member DeDreana Freeman and Ward II Council Member Mark-Anthony Middleton. Middleton was selected by O’Neal, and approved by a council vote, to be the new Mayor Pro Tempore. Councilmember Leonardo Williams was sworn in as the new Ward III representative.
“I love Durham, and I promise to serve them well, to the best of my ability, but I’m also asking them to commit to serving the community well, too,” O’Neal said.