“Some people feel entitled, some feel disenfranchised,” Anthony Foxx told the Charlotte Observer in 2009. “At various points in my life, I have been on the outside looking in. I can deal with both personality types. I can deal with both extremes.”
In addition to serving as a school principal, Anthony’s grandfather James Foxx Sr. also was a Democratic power broker in the city and an intimate of political leaders such as Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) and Harvey Gantt, who became Charlotte’s first black mayor.
After high school, Anthony Foxx went to Davidson College, a small liberal arts school north of Charlotte. He became the first black student body president before graduating with a history degree in 1993.
He earned a law degree at New York University in 1996 and worked in Washington as a lawyer for the Justice Department’s civil rights division and as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee before returning home in 2001. That same year he married the former Sarama Ryder, a lawyer he met when both worked on Capitol Hill, and with whom he now has two children.
He then joined the Charlotte office of Hunton & Williams, the venerable corporate law firm. His clients included the city’s powerful banking interests and Duke University Health System, which he represented in medical malpractice lawsuits. He once told the Observer that, more than a courtroom firebrand or arm-twister, he viewed himself as a “mediator” who brought parties together to find solutions.
Within a few years, he joined the 11-member city council. At his first meeting, he reportedly surprised several members with his declaration that the council displayed a “loss of focus” in its attentiveness toward the city’s poorer wards.
He later explained to the Observer: “I had been very familiar with how public bodies operate. I had always tried to study the issues, and I had spent countless hours reading through material. I didn’t have to have a lot of ramp-up time.”
He won a second term to the council and then, in 2009, was elected mayor when the seat long held by Pat McCrory, now the state’s Republican governor, became vacant after 14 years. Foxx campaigned on economic development issues at a time when the citywas slammed by the national economic recession.
Foxx drew the endorsement of the city’s main newspaper, which called him a practitioner of “moderate, mainstream politics” who was “adept at connecting with residents and uniting a diverse community.” He won the mayoralty by fewer than 3,000 votes against his Republican challenger.
The mayor’s job in Charlotte is part-time (it now pays $37,459), while the city manager and staff handle most of the day-to-day operations. Foxx, who then as now is employed as deputy general counsel of the DesignLine hybrid and electric bus manufacturer, championed a series of public transit initiatives, including the failed-for-now streetcar expansion.