Local Politics

Meeker faces opposition for Raleigh mayor

Posted July 9, 2009 7:07 a.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2009 6:51 p.m. EDT

— Mayor Charles Meeker on Thursday officially entered the race to seek a fifth two-year term as Raleigh's top official, and for the first time in a while, he will have competition.

Raleigh native Mark Enloe, a data administrator and political neophyte, also filed for the mayoral race, saying the city needs new leadership after eight years under Meeker.

"It's too long. We need some fresh ideas," Enloe said. "Some of what Mayor Meeker has done has been on the right track with parks and recreation (and) transportation. He says he's for these things, but we're just not making these things happen. I want to bring a new energy and make it happen."

Meeker said in April that he would seek re-election to help lead Raleigh out of the recession. He said his experience in leading the city through the downturn that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could be beneficial to helping Raleigh's economy recover once again.

Two other goals he had laid out for another term are planning and funding a regional transit system and establishing the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus as a destination park within the city.

"Now is a hard time for the city. I don't feel good leaving right now. There very important things top accomplish," he said.

As mayor, the 58-year-old has been a strong advocate for downtown redevelopment and environmental issues.

During his tenure, Raleigh opened a new downtown convention center, reopened Fayetteville Street to traffic and underwent a boom in downtown condominium development.

He backed stiff water restrictions during the 2007-08 drought as Falls Lake dried up, and he has championed the city's effort to adopt energy-efficient lighting and hybrid vehicles. He also pushed for higher impact fees from developers to help pay for Raleigh's growth and for limiting the size of homes built in the city's older neighborhoods.

Defeating a popular incumbent like Meeker will be a difficult task for Enloe, according to political strategist Scott Falmlen.

"I don't think anyone is untouchable, but I think the mayor is in an enviable position," Falmlen said. "He has provided strong leadership for the city of Raleigh. The city has made great progress under his leadership."

Many observers have said City Councilman Philip Isley would present the strongest challenge for Meeker. Isley declined to comment Thursday on his plans for this fall's election.

Meeker said he's ready for anything.

"I really don't know what will happen. The citizens pick the mayor," he said.