A broad smile spread across Mayor-Elect Sharon Pratt Dixon's face as the first results of her overwhelming victory were reported on television shortly after 8 p.m.
"I was hoping for 70 percent," she said. She got nearly 90 percent, according to the early count.
"Is that a mandate, or is that a mandate?" Janette Hoston Harris, a senior campaign adviser, called out in the suite in the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
"I asked for one, they gave me one, and I sure do appreciate it," Dixon said. "We'll be able to achieve real reform with this."
Her pursuit of that ambition, now that she has prevailed at the polls, will begin today.
The mayor-elect said she plans to meet with newly elected Council Chairman John A. Wilson to discuss remedies for the city's financial crisis, to get together with former Congressional Budget Office director Alice Rivlin to examine Rivlin's study of the city's books, and to decide who the best people are to serve on her transition team.
Vernon E. Jordan Jr., former president of the National Urban League and now a partner in the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm, has agreed to head the transition team, according to a source close to Dixon.
"Part of the reason for picking Vernon is that he is the type of person who has been involved with the town for a long time and has the depth and breadth of experience in the public and private sector, but who has no other agenda but to serve the new administration," the source said.
Last night, however, Dixon had more immediate concerns. She had to choose words of thanks for the hundreds of supporters waiting in the hotel ballroom.
"What should I say?" she asked Marilyn "Trish" Robinson, a childhood friend and journalist.
"Take it from the heart," Robinson replied, "and don't get off that track for the next four years."
A steady stream of campaign workers came in to hug her. Among them were the first supporters, people who were with Dixon in the beginning when she was a long-shot candidate whom few political handicappers took seriously.
Now Dixon has to figure out how to make the many promises she made to those supporters and voters come true. During an emotional summer of campaigning when communities were torn apart by the travails of Mayor Marion Barry, she told them that she knew how to put the city back together again.
She said she would bring down the homicide rate within six months of taking office. She said she'd take the boards off of all city-owned housing within 18 months. She committed herself to a balancing act of reducing government spending without cutting vital services.
Perhaps most troubling to many District employees, she vowed to cut the bloat from government by cutting 2,000 mid-management positions from the payroll.
"The absolute first thing I'm going to do is detail how much I am going to cut and how much it is going to save the city," she said.
During the primary campaign, Dixon said repeatedly that it would "border on the criminal" to levy any new taxes on D.C. residents. It's a view she began to back away from in recent weeks as the depth of the District's financial problems -- an estimated $100 million shortfall in the coming year -- became apparent.
While making the rounds to precinct polls in Southeast Washington yesterday, Dixon said that Wilson "has the view that we have got to have some kind of tax increase. I don't want that, but we've got to forge some kind of alliance, there's no question about it. What heightens the need for that kind of partnership is the risk that we could run out of money by the first week in February.
"I'm not going to let that happen on my watch," she said emphatically.
Dixon said she intends to use the Rivlin report as a starting point.
"The first objective clearly is to come forth with some means to deal with the city's financial problem, the budget. I've got to come up with some kind of rabbit out of a hat."
With the exception of Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr., the only top Barry administration official Dixon has said she will retain, "I intend to have a completely new government," she said.
Gretchen Wharton, a marketing executive for Xerox Corp. and a longtime friend of Dixon's, has been appointed staff director of the transition team. Dixon said she will begin assembling the team this week.
The transition team will do "almost like an inventory of where the government is, what programs it has, where they are working and where they are not," Dixon said. She said she intends to fill pivotal Cabinet positions by the time of her inauguration Jan. 2.
The mayor-elect also said she intends to form a management review committee, composed of people from the private sector and academia to recommend ways for her to most efficiently structure her administration.