Rawls Elected First Black Mayor of Brownsville - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Rawls Elected First Black Mayor of Brownsville

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. (FOX13) - History was made in Brownsville Tuesday as the city elected its first African-American mayor.

Political newcomer Bill Rawls, Jr., claimed victory over the incumbent mayor Jo Matherene, who was the first female to hold the same position.

The rural community of Brownsville, with a population of less than 10,000, almost looks like time has stood still.

"Right now you can't buy a pack of chewing gum around the square," said Earl Stanley, voter. "Nothing around the square except law offices and furniture stores."

Stanley said his community, once prosperous, is now a combination of desolate to depressed. There is very little to offer those who are trying to survive in this farming community. Stanley said he voted for Rawls, believing in his ability to bring growth to Brownsville.

"I believe he's a better man by far than a lot of people walking around the streets claim to be men," Stanley said.

"The same way we want to govern our city, each citizen at a time, one at a time, not getting too big, never getting too small, everybody is important and everybody has value," said Rawls, the mayor-elect.

Rawls said this is what he still sees in his community. His family has served in the funeral home business for more than 80 years and said when he came back to the business, he felt a sense of hopelessness in the community.

"We needed change in Brownsville and I think this is our chance to move forward," said Will Jones, voter.

For many voters the lack of jobs, and the eventual closing of the only hospital in Brownsville,was enough momentum for residents to demand for a change in leadership.

"We have the infrastructure, railway, we have an interstate that comes right through our city limits and we have an industrial park," the mayor-elect said.

But in four years, the incumbent mayor wasn't able to bring progress. Mayor-elect Rawls said he's not going to reinvent the wheel, but try to remarket why the area is worth moving forward.

"When you're the first, it's always a little more difficult but you pave the way for others," Rawls said. "If I'm the first African-American mayor, I won't be the last."

Mayor-elect Rawls will officially be sworn in July 8. He says in his first 30 days his focus will be cleaning up trash and debris in the community.

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