Voters make history by electing Dr. Karen Weaver to become Flint's next mayor

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FLINT (WJRT) - (11/04/15) - Water is one of the main reasons Flint will have a new mayor come Monday. People, upset with the water emergency, voted Dayne Walling out and Dr. Karen Weaver in. She becomes the first woman to hold the mayor's post.

She'll be sworn into office Monday at noon. Walling will be spending the rest of this week finishing up official business and cleaning out his office. He told ABC12 that he expected to win a close race - not lose by 12 percentage points.

Weaver received 56 percent of the vote. Walling received 44 percent. Voter turn out in the city was around 18 percent.

"This is not a change that I planned for, so I'll take a couple of months to consider my options," Walling said.

Walling steps away from a job he's held for the past six years, knowing residents were and are still angry about the elevated lead levels found in Flint Water.

"I certainly look back and wish there was something that could have been done to avert the water crisis," Walling said. "The city was getting bad information from the Department of Environmental Quality."

Weaver was on the offensive when it came to water. She said health issues and replacing aging infrastructure will need to be tackled along with the basics.

"Restoring trust in city government, so I have to work on that because that under rides so much of it," Weaver said.

She's working on establishing a transition team and is planning a listening tour. So far, Weaver said she's not advocating for any key leadership changes.

"I don't want to go in and rush and make some quick decisions because we have such serious issues facing us," Weaver said. "I want to meet with all the department heads. I want to get a thorough update from them as far as what's going on in the various departments."

Walling said running the mayor's office takes a deep understanding of the budget, personnel, programs and services. He said it's always challenging for someone new to come into office, but he's urging everyone to work together for the people of Flint.

"There's no time for settling old scores or going back to the politics of the past," Walling said. "It has to be about Flint moving forward now that the election's behind us."

Walling said some of the accomplishments he's proud of is the work the city's done on blight elimination and creating a master plan.

"The challenge here in Flint is always having the time and money to get done the work that we already know we need to do. We need to knock down 5,000 more houses. We need to provide hundreds more mentoring opportunities for our young boys, especially on the north side of Flint," Walling said. "We need to attract more neighborhood businesses and companies that are leading the American manufacturing renaissance. There's always more work to be done."

Weaver said she has ideas on a multitude of issues, including blight, crime, education and economic development. She plans to unveil more policy decisions in the coming weeks and months after meeting with City Hall employees.

In the meantime, she's thanking her supporters.

"I just want to thank the people who came and supported me, voted for me and gave me well wishes and gave their time, effort, energy, finances, prayer - all of that," Weaver said. "Because we did it together."

Walling hasn't ruled out running for public office in the future, but said no matter what he does, it will center around helping the people of Flint and the city move forward.

"There's room in this community for leaders in City Hall, out in the community (and) from different organizations, so I'm very committed to seeing Flint move forward," he said.

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