New Orleans welcomes first female mayor

New Orleans welcomes first female mayor

LaToya Cantrell
In this Sep 22, 2017 file photo, New Orleans mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell (centre) listens to donors at the home of Robert Ripley in New Orleans. (Sophia Germer/The Advocate via AP)

WASHINGTON: New Orleans has elected its first female mayor in its nearly 300-year history, a city council member who helped her neighbourhood recover from Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

LaToya Cantrell received a strong mandate of 60 per cent of the vote, local media reported, in a race that pitted her against another woman, former judge Desiree Charbonnet.

"The celebration continues! I can't thank everyone who helped us get here enough!" Cantrell, 45, said on Twitter late Saturday.

She pledged to "lead with integrity" and be a voice for everyone, whomever they voted for in the city whose spicy cuisine and jazz clubs are major tourist draws.

Current mayor Mitch Landrieu also offered his congratulations to Cantrell, "the mayor-elect."

She joins a select group of women heading large American cities.

In 2016, about 19 per cent of mayors were female in United States communities with populations larger than 30,000, according to the Centre for American Women and Politics at Rutgers university.

Cantrell is a relative newcomer to elected office, having won a council seat in 2012 after her work with a neighborhood non-profit group that helped the city recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The deadliest storm in US history, Katrina pounded the southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in 2005, leading to some 1,800 deaths and inflicting more than US$150 billion worth of damage.

Around 80 per cent of New Orleans was submerged as the city's flood defenses gave way.

Ray Nagin, who was mayor during Katrina and after, is serving a 10-year sentence for bribery, money laundering and other offences while he held office.

On her website, Cantrell said New Orleans is "a city of two truths." One is where public facilities have been rebuilt and new businesses are flourishing.

The other, which she wants to rectify, "is about crime and illegal guns, pockets of blight, flooded streets that are covered in potholes."

She will take office as New Orleans' 51st mayor next year, when the city founded in 1718 turns 300.

Source: AFP/de