REUTERS - A New Orleans City Council member who launched a political career after helping her neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina was elected as the city’s first female mayor this weekend in a runoff that pitted her against another woman.
LaToya Cantrell, 45, on Saturday defeated former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet in a special runoff election to replace Mitch Landrieu. Both women are African-American.
Cantrell will take office as the 51st mayor of New Orleans in May 2018 as the Louisiana city celebrates the 300th anniversary of its founding by the French in 1718.
“Almost 300 years, my friends, and in New Orleans we’re still making history,” Cantrell said in a victory speech to supporters on Saturday.
“We are no longer about the haves and the have-nots,” she said. “Our city continues to grow and give real opportunity. That pie is getting larger so that each and every one of us can share in it, can win in our city.”
Cantrell and Charbonnet were the top vote-getters in a field of 18 candidates in an October general election.
Both women gained political traction from their response to Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, killing more than 1,800 people.
Cantrell was one of the leaders of a grassroots effort to fight a city advisory panel’s proposal to turn her Broadmoor neighborhood in a green belt after it was hit by severe hurricane-related flooding. The cause propelled her to win a City Council seat in 2012.
In Katrina’s aftermath, Charbonnet, then the city’s elected recorder of mortgages, pressed for the office to reopen as quickly as possible so it could provide vital property records to displaced residents.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn