Local Politics

McFarlane looks back as she prepares to leave Raleigh City Hall

Posted October 23, 2019 7:56 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2019 6:53 p.m. EDT

— Nancy McFarlane says eight years is enough to serve as Raleigh's mayor, so she's prepared to leave at the end of November.

McFarlane announced in March that she wouldn't seek a fifth two-year term, saying the changing landscape of politics and brutal social media attacks on her family made the decision to step aside easier.

Former City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin won the six-person race to succeed McFarlane two weeks ago and will be sworn in as mayor in December.

McFarlane was Raleigh's 35th mayor, and she said she loved being a nonpartisan ambassador for the city.

"I view myself as a steward of the city," she said. "Party doesn't matter at all. No one cares whose party fills your potholes."

McFarlane took a no-nonsense approach to leading Raleigh, dealing with rapid growth that has strained the city's resources and championing the purchase of the former Dorothea Dix Hospital property from the state for a 300-acre park near downtown.

"It made total sense. Why would it not happen? It felt to me like it had to happen," she said, calling the lengthy negotiations with the state her toughest fight in office.

Once she leaves office, she said she plans to spend a lot of her time working with the Dix Park Conservancy on plans for the future park.

Another battle involved the 2016 state law limiting local nondiscrimination ordinances and dictating what public bathrooms transgender individuals could use.

"I think I called [then-Gov.] Pat McCrory and said, 'Please don't sign this,'" she said. "We had just finally gotten a direct flight to San Francisco, and we were putting out the welcome mat with a sign saying, 'Don't come here if you're gay.'"

Lawmakers partially repealed the law in 2017.

While in office, McFarlane became friends with the Dalai Lama and persuaded him to visit Raleigh. Those plans were put on hold because of the spiritual leader's health, but he still plans to visit at some point in the future. She said his compassion for humanity left a brand on her heart regarding children.

"He talked about how we spend 12 years teaching children's minds but we don't teach their hearts," she said.

McFarlane said she leaves office knowing she leaves full plate for Baldwin – from affordable housing to transit – but she expressed confidence that Raleigh's future is bright.

"This is the thing about Raleigh – people here are so willing to give of their time and talents to make this a better community," she said.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.