Durham City Council member Leonardo Williams was elected as Durham's next mayor in Tuesday's general elections.
Javiera Caballero won her reelection bid, while Nate Baker and Carl Rist were elected to the other two available at-large council seats. Durham City Council member Monique Holsey-Hyman, who was appointed to her seat in May 2022, was not elected.
According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, 18.77% of registered Durham voters voted in Tuesday’s municipal elections.
A new leader for the Bull City
Williams received 63.47% of the vote to defeat state Sen. Mike Woodard, Trinity ‘81.
Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal announced in June that she would not seek reelection, prompting eight candidates to jump into a crowded race for the city’s highest office. Durham’s Oct. 10 primary municipal elections narrowed the race down to Williams, who was the highest polling candidate with 51.28% of the vote, and Woodard.
Williams emphasized wanting to help the city realize its full potential in his mayoral run. His vision included plans to expand public transportation, develop the workforce, combat crime and create a unified city culture.
“You can't be hungry or thirsty in office. You can't be in public office to be relevant,” he said. “I didn't need to be in public office, I wasn't thinking relevancy. I was just looking to work hard.”
Williams was elected to the City Council in 2021, and previously worked as a teacher and administrator. He was twice named teacher of the year by Durham Public Schools. He and his wife Zweli currently own and run Zweli’s Kitchen and Restaurant.
One familiar face, two new ones
Twelve candidates initially vied for Durham’s three at-large council seats, and the Oct. 10 primary municipal elections narrowed the candidates down to the top six contenders. Sheila Huggins later dropped out of the race, leaving two incumbents and three other candidates vying for the available seats.
One of those incumbents, Caballero, won reelection with 22.03% of the vote. She was initially elected to the Durham City Council in 2018 and hoped to continue advocating for a more equitable and inclusive city in a second term.
Baker, a member of Durham’s Planning Commission, was elected with 22.57% of the vote, the highest of all candidates. His campaign platform centered on a three-pronged approach to improving the quality of life for Durham residents: planning for people, protecting the environment and prioritizing good government.
Rist, Sanford ‘91, was elected with 20.73% of the vote. He has experience working with a variety of nonprofits and with the think tank Prosperity Now. Rist prioritized economic reform, affordable housing, sustainability and community safety in his campaign.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.