Tomorrow, Karen Freeman-Wilson will become the first black woman to serve as mayor of a city in Indiana. That city is Gary, the Detroit of Indiana, fully realized caricature of urban decay, the rusted over ribcage of America's manufacturing sector. Good luck, brave lady.
Freeman-Wilson may have her work cut out for her; Gary's got a sky high crime rate, rampant unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and a host of other problems. But she's up to the challenge, and if anyone can reform the city an hour or so from Chicago, it's someone like her.
She's a hometown girl, born and raised in Gary before her studies took her to Harvard for both her undergraduate degree and for law school. She served as The Hoosier State's Attorney General and as a judge, as well as CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. In November, she received 87% of the popular vote.
Her plans for Gary include developing and promoting the city's airport, which is close to Chicago and not located as deeply into Highway Clusterfuckistan as the Windy City's congested O'Hare Airport. She also wants to improve City Hall's accessibility to residents, clean up the streets, and build a better relationship with US Steel, the corporation responsible for employing (and subsequently laying off) many of Gary's residents.
Freeman-Wilson isn't tackling the challenge of getting the town frequently featured on lists of America's most dangerous cities on the right track by herself; she's surrounded by a team of advisors with impressive backgrounds. Think of Freeman-Wilson as Leslie Knope and the rest of her team as sort of deputy Leslie Knopes. And the town's about to transform into a real-life Parks and Recreation, but with an all-Gary native cast. And instead of a Sweet'ums factory, innumerable smokestacks spewing fire and black clouds of particulate.
Meet Indiana's First African-American Female Mayor [The Atlantic]