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Meet the New Mayor: Thelda Williams to Serve in Interim Before Special Election

Thelda Williams was approved by her peers on the City Council to serve as mayor until a special election in November.
Thelda Williams was approved by her peers on the City Council to serve as mayor until a special election in November.
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Mayor Greg Stanton is out, and Mayor Thelda Williams is in charge.

At a special Phoenix City Council meeting on Monday, Williams was unanimously elected by the other council members to serve as mayor pro tempore until Phoenix voters elect a new mayor in November.

Stanton resigned on May 29 to run for Congress in District 9. In Stanton's immediate absence, Williams automatically became the interim mayor because she'd been appointed vice mayor in March.

Councilwoman Debra Stark nominated Williams, with a second from Councilwoman Laura Pastor.

“We’re lucky to have you guide us through the next few months," Stark said. "I am so honored to nominate you.”

Stark then nominated Councilman Jim Waring to serve as vice mayor in Williams' place. He was approved, despite a "no" vote from Pastor on his nomination.

The Council also approved a special election for mayor to be held during November's general election. Current council members Kate Gallego and Daniel Valenzuela have announced that they will run. The winner will fill the remainder of Stanton's term, which ends in 2020.

Gallego and Valenzuela must also resign their seats to run for mayor under Arizona's resign-to-run statute. They have until August 8 to resign, the same deadline to file their nomination petitions.

Williams was an easy choice for the other council members. Her selection avoids the political gamesmanship that would come with nominating either of their peers who are actively gunning for the mayor's office. Plus, Williams has served as interim mayor before — she took over when then-mayor Paul Johnson resigned in 1994.

Williams represents District 1, which encompasses Phoenix’s northwest edge along Interstate 17. She was first elected to the Council in 1989 and served until 1996, before successfully running for City Council again in 2007. Williams was re-elected in 2015.

In the intervening years when she was not on the Council, Williams served as a division commander with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, where she oversaw substance abuse and juvenile programs, as well as a unit for neglected and abused animals.  

Surrounded by her family, Williams called serving as mayor a "privilege."

“I want us to be as nonpartisan as possible," Williams said. "I want to concentrate on public safety, making sure we have paved roads, and we have [a] safe and available water supply.”

“I think my colleagues already know my priorities,” she added.

With that, Williams pounded the gavel. "We’re adjourned," she declared.

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