Dixon elevated to Baltimore mayor

BALTIMORE — Sheila Dixon officially became Baltimore’s first female mayor yesterday, facing a wave of violent crime, an ethics probe and a crowded field of opponents planning to run against her.

Under the city’s charter, Mrs. Dixon automatically steps into the job to finish the remainder of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s mayoral term, which ends in December.

The Baltimore native has held public office in the city since 1987, when she was elected to the City Council. She later become the first black woman to become City Council president, winning citywide races in 1999 and 2004. In that role, she was chairman of the city’s five-member Board of Estimates, which oversees all major city contracts. Mrs. Dixon plans to run for a full four-year term as mayor.

Mrs. Dixon, 53, is a black Democrat in a city with a population that is 65 percent black and 90 percent Democrat. Her inauguration today marks a milestone for the former elementary school teacher with a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education and a master’s degree in educational management.

Those who have announced they are running for mayor include City Council member Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., state Delegate Jill P. Carter, high school principal Andrey Bundley and Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr.

Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt also has expressed interest in the race.

Mrs. Dixon has had her share of political ups and downs.

During a 1991 debate at City Hall on redistricting, Mrs. Dixon caused a major stir when she took off one of her shoes, held it up and told white City Council members: “Now the shoe is on the other foot.”

More recently, Mrs. Dixon has been dogged for months by a state investigation relating to her involvement with city money that went to companies employing her sister and her former campaign chairman. The city ethics board cleared Mrs. Dixon last week, but state investigators are not commenting on the status of their probe, which has resulted in an indictment.

Mildred Boyer, who owns Union Technologies, has been charged in a 10-count indictment, including six counts of making and issuing false and counterfeit invoices with the intent to defraud Atlanta-based Action Capital Corp.

The Baltimore Sun reported in February that Mrs. Dixon might have breached city ethics law by not disclosing her sister Janice’s employment with Union Technologies. Mrs. Dixon participated in hearings and votes involving the firm.

Mrs. Dixon hasn’t outlined detailed plans for her administration. She has said she wants to focus on strengthening neighborhoods by making the city cleaner and stepping up cooperation among the city’s law-enforcement agencies.

“Cleaner, greener, effective, efficient transparent government, working in partnership with the community, enhancing many of the initiatives that we’ve been working on,” she said last week.

Mrs. Dixon is a mother of two and a longtime student of karate. She is the aunt of Maryland basketball star and NBA player Juan Dixon, who now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

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