The man who will be Montgomery, Alabama’s first African American mayor wants his tenure to signal a new narrative for his 200-year-old city, he told CNN on Thursday.
“We want to be seen as a part of the New South,” Steven Reed told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “We want to turn the page and change the narrative, and that’s what this election was about.”
Reed was born and raised in Montgomery and in 2012 became the first African American elected as probate judge in Montgomery County. In Tuesday’s mayoral runoff, he defeated TV station owner David Woods, who is white.
Montgomery, where 60% of residents are black, has a complicated racial history. It is the birthplace of the civil rights movement but also was the first capital of the Confederacy. It later became the site of Rosa Parks’ bus boycott and the destination of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery protest marches. The nation’s first memorial for more than 4,000 victims of lynchings opened last year there.
While the mayor-elect told CNN that it might have been a number of factors that delayed the state capital city’s election of a black mayor, it’s now time to move forward.
“We’ve been unified on the message of opportunity and creating an environment where people can live, learn and earn,” Reed said.
“We’re a city that’s facing some challenges regarding our public schools, facing challenges about what is our economic future and how do we recruit and retain talent and resources here? How do we grow the economy? And certainly, we’re trying to deal with issues around criminal justice,” he said.
Top Democrats congratulate Reed
Reed’s historic election drew national praise, with several Democratic presidential candidates congratulating him.
“The birthplace of the civil rights movement has a new era of leadership for the first time in its 200-year history,” Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Congratulations to @StevenLouisReed on his historic election as Montgomery, Alabama’s first African American mayor! I can’t wait to see the big, structural change you make.”
Reed tweeted that he spoke with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who congratulated him on his victory.
Reed will be sworn into office in November, replacing Mayor Todd Strange, who has held office since 2009. Strange did not run for reelection.
In Reed’s first 100 days in office, he wants to focus on public education and restoring trust between the police and the community, two issues he ran on, he told CNN.
“We want to let everyone know that this is a new Montgomery,” Reed said. “This is a new day, and we’re going to be a great part and a great asset to this country.”