‘The Eagle’ staff holds exclusive press conference with Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts


Photo by Lucia Wallace

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts speaks to student journalists on ‘The Eagle’ staff during an exclusive interview on Nov. 7.

Story by Kate Carroll, Online Editor-In-Chief

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts walked into her old high school on Tue, Nov. 7 for a visit not so typical of school alumni. Roberts took part in an exclusive press conference with The Eagle news staff to share about her experience as mayor and her life as a whole.

“When I was in high school, I never thought I would run for mayor,” Roberts said.

Roberts touched on a wide range of topics, including her background, successes as mayor, issues that she focuses on, being a woman in public office, challenges as mayor, inequality, the Trump presidency, the recent mayoral election, and her plans for the future.

Roberts highlighted her passion for education throughout the press conference. She taught math before becoming involved in public office, it was the reason that she got into local government in the first place and she finds it to be relevant in all aspects of life.

“What got me into public office was my kids going into the public school system,” Roberts said.

She found it important that someone directly affected by the education system had a say in the local government. After holding public office in Charlotte, she believes there are parallels to education.

“Even as a public official, you’re an educator,” Roberts said. “You’re constantly explaining to folks in your community how government works, what your authorities are, what your authorities are not, you’re trying always to get public input, but you are always working to educate people about that process.”

Over the course of the press conference, Roberts touched on her successes as mayor, having to do with new jobs, new initiatives with the youth, and increased transparency in the police department.

Transparency was one issue that Roberts worked very hard on after the protests following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

“It [the protests following the shooting] was a very difficult time for the city, it was a very difficult time for the family, it was a very difficult time for the police department,” Roberts said.

Roberts explained that the mayor has no true discretion over the police chief, but she has worked with the city and police force to improve the perception of policing.

“We have increased the connection between our officers and the communities they serve,” Roberts said. “We are trying more diverse hiring, we are giving the officers training on implicit violence and dismantling racism, we are giving them training in mental health awareness.”

Roberts touched on the fact that she was associated directly with the Keith Lamont Scott police shooting and with conflict in Charlotte surrounding House Bill 2, and considers them both to be factors in her loss to Vi Lyles in the democratic primary of this year’s mayoral election.

“HB2 and the protests definitely has an impact on my loss and I look at dissecting the loss and all that and I try not to do that too much because there are a lot of things that you don’t have control over,” Roberts said. “I didn’t have a chance to do an exit interview with everybody that voted for someone else to really understand what was behind that. I can generally say that HB2 and the protests were held against me, being in leadership even though the mayor does not have any authority over the police chief.”

Roberts explained that even though she didn’t have much control over the situation, she understood why some people thought that it was her responsibility.

“Still, you are the titular head of the government. You’re the public face, you get blamed for everything.”

Although Roberts thought that her experience with HB2 and the protests did hinder her in reelection, she says that voters didn’t really vote for change by voting for Lyles in the primary.

“What was interesting though is that the person [Vi Lyles] who ended up getting the democratic nomination is not that different from my perspective, my values, the way I voted. We are very very similar,” Roberts said. “So people who wanted change were just looking for another person. If I had wanted to differentiate, I could have, but I didn’t want to go negative, so I didn’t.”

Not going negative was another factor that Roberts thinks could have hurt her in the process of  reelection, but doesn’t regret it either way.

“In my perspective, getting reelected is not worth integrity and tearing down somebody else. I have other things I can do,” Roberts said. “For me, political life is not the be all end all, for some politicians it is.”

Since politics is not the ultimate priority for Roberts’ life as a whole, she says that she isn’t quite sure what she plans to move on to do after leaving office on Dec. 4.

“I am passionate about a lot of different things and there are a lot of ways I might go,” Roberts said. “I love teaching, I enjoy promoting and advocating for things I think are needed, and there are several things that I care a lot about.”

For now, Roberts ponders on which of her passions to pursue, whether it be education, equality, the environment, or developing digital cities.

“I may not have that answer by the time December fourth come around, but I’m okay with that because I have a husband who’s employed so I can take a little break if I need to. I am lucky to have that,” Roberts said.