By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 7, 2006 10:02 PM
Adrian M. Fenty, who inspired hope that he could fix the failing D.C. school system and resolve the divide between wealth and poverty, was overwhelmingly elected tonight as the District's fifth mayor.
Fenty, a 35-year-old Democrat, had campaigned tirelessly for the job over the past 17 months, greeting thousands of residents door-to-door in all eight wards and pledging to reorganize government and turn his home town into a world-class city.
As with his fellow D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray, who ran unopposed for the chairman's office, victory for Fenty in the majority-Democratic city had been considered assured. He'd won all 142 precincts to dominate the September mayoral primary over council Chairman Linda W. Cropp.
He prepared to swiftly set the tone for change, ready to move his staff tomorrow from a small headquarters on Florida Avenue to transition offices on the eighth floor of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, a city building at 14th and U streets NW. The new mayor will take office Jan. 2, replacing Anthony A. Williams (D), who has served since 1999. He planned to outline some of his transition plans tomorrow at a morning news conference.
Already, Fenty and Dan Tangherlini, his designated city administrator, have set a busy agenda. Within a week, Fenty intends to name a new attorney general, general counsel and deputy mayor. He wants to eliminate administrative positions to streamline management and save money. He plans to travel to New York with Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, Gray and other council members to meet with Wall Street bond rating agencies. They also will discuss school reform with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R), whose takeover model Fenty admires.
Fenty even intends to change the floor plan at the John A. Wilson Building, home to the mayor and council, by knocking down interior walls on the third floor to create a large, open "bullpen," where he would work alongside deputies.
"The goal is to have a city that works in every regard," Fenty said. "In order to make that case, you've got to have the best people, the best ideas and the best follow-through. The four years of our administration is the follow-through, but the transition is the time to get the best people and the best ideas and start to work on them now."
Despite nominal opposition from Republican David W. Kranich and the Statehood Green Party's Chris Otten, Fenty took a pre-victory lap around the District today, greeting and hugging supporters at polling places. He posed for pictures and took requests from those already seeking help: Come to our holiday party! Stop by our school! Meet with our church group!
"People really have believed what we've said over and over in this campaign, that we're going to work hard to turn the District of Columbia into a world-class city," said Fenty, wearing a black fedora and a tan raincoat while hailing voters outside the Taft Center on Perry Street in Northeast Washington.
"There's a lot of unifying and coming together today, just a ton of excitement," Fenty added. "This marks the next stage, a new stage."
Since winning the primary, Fenty has moved vigorously to prepare for the mayor's job. He announced he would reappoint Gandhi for another five-year term as financial officer. He traveled cross-country to meet with mayors of New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, examining programs he might emulate in Washington. And he declared that he wants to take direct control of the city's failing public schools.
"I don't think everyone realizes just how much energy he has," said the Rev. Anthony Evans, associate minister of Mount Zion Baptist Church, who voted for Fenty. "Now the city will realize it. He's a marked improvement on Williams. He's more hands-on. You can meet with him like I did several times during the primary. I think he's really going to get things done and build stronger neighborhoods and communities."
The mayor's race this year gave voters a stark choice between Cropp, 58, who spent 26 years in elected office, and Fenty, whose service consists of six years on the council.
Marion Barry won four terms as mayor with his man-of-the-street image; Sharon Pratt won in 1990 as an outsider with new ideas; and Williams won in 1998 as the bow-tied technocrat who would rescue the finances of a bankrupt city. But Fenty's appeal was a mix of all three.
Young, handsome, biracial, Fenty went door-to-door nearly every night for more than a year to establish his populist credentials. He pledged to eschew fractious, insider politics in favor of hard work, new energy and creative ideas.
While Cropp cast herself as best-suited to carry on the economic turnaround begun under Williams, Fenty said he will build on Williams's legacy by tackling remaining social problems, such as schools and poverty.
"I was impressed that he knocked on my door; I don't remember someone doing that since Marion Barry," said Juanita Glover, 69, a grandmother from the Woodridge area in Ward 5 who voted for Fenty. "He'll make a good mayor because he keeps the needs of people in mind. He's a people person, and he'll take the interests of all neighborhoods seriously."
Yet Fenty, known as a lone wolf on the 13-member council, will be tested in his new role to develop consensus and push his agenda forward. His proposal to take control of schools, which could mean turning the elected school board into an advisory panel, already has been criticized by some community activists.
How Fenty will work with Gray, who has spent only two years on the council, and several new members is unclear. Gray, whose campaign slogan was "One City," made his own journey through the District today and will announce details of his own plans this week.
Gray, who turns 64 today, once directed the city's human services department and, like Fenty, has pledged to tackle the city's social problems. Coming from Ward 7, Gray also has made a point to talk about ensuring that the government addresses concerns of residents east of the Anacostia River.
He and most other council members have said they will wait to see a specific proposal before making up their minds on Fenty's school takeover plans.
But today, some residents already were looking to Fenty for cues. After he arrived at a polling place in Mount Pleasant, resident Kassie Rempel, 33, approached him with a question: Who should she vote for in the school board race?
Fenty led Rempel away from reporters gathered on the sidewalk and spoke with her in private. Rempel, who has a 9-month-old baby, said education is the most important issue to her but would not reveal what Fenty told her.
In any case, she said, she plans to support Fenty if he moves to take over the school system.
"If he thinks that's the best plan," Rempel said, "I'm going to trust him."