William “Bill” Rawls, Jr. became the first African-American mayor in the city of Brownsville in Tennessee. The historic mark is additionally noteworthy as Rawls defeated outgoing mayor Jo Matherne, who was the city’s first female mayor.
Rawls won the election by capturing 65 percent of the vote compared to Matherne’s 35, according to unofficial numbers from the Haywood County Election Commission. Rawls, who co-owns the Rawls Funeral Home in the town, has never held elected office prior to the win. Rawls will be sworn in officially on July 8, and serve a four-year term in the post. Both candidates ran as independents in the race as mandated by the city’s charter for mayoral elections.
“It started with a conversation with my campaign manager, and we thought there was a need for change in our community and a lack of a sense of urgency, so we decided it would be in the best interest of everybody to just get it done,” Rawls said after he gave a victory speech to supporters.
In 2010 Matherne won her first term as mayor by 236 votes, but she couldn’t combat Rawls and his supporters Tuesday.
“I congratulate Mr. Rawls on a successful campaign, and assure him a smooth transition between administrations,” she said by phone after the results were announced.
According to the Election Commission, Rawls’ entry into the mayoral race attracted more voters in the predominately African-American town. There were 914 more votes cast this year than 2010’s total of 1,540, based on reports.