On Sept. 8, Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker announced her painful decision to withdraw from this year’s City Council race, a choice she explained was extremely “difficult.” Walker became the city’s first Black female mayor in 2017.
“I’ve been struggling since March, with leaving, making an announcement,” Walker said at a press conference on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported. Fighting off tears, the Democrat continued, adding that, “It’s just been a hard term. ”
During her tenure, the former social justice advocate fought to implement several changes throughout the city, including affordable housing issues, local government transparency, and addressing racial inequality in the Charlottesville community, which she says “has been a challenge.”
“Fighting overt, covert, and internalized racism every day, and feeling really alone while doing that… I still get up, and I do it, I do all my work, and I stay up late fighting with people, and I still stay up late and get my work done. It’s really taken a toll on me and my family. It’s been a really difficult process,” Walker expressed.
Three candidates remain in the race, including Democrats Juandiego Wade and Brian Pinkston and independent Yas Washington. The three will face off for Walker’s seat after she and councilwoman Heather Hill step down from their positions. Walker said she would not endorse any of the candidates currently up for election.
In May, the mayor talked about the stress of being on the city council, especially as a Black woman helping to spearhead change for the city.
“One thing I’ve learned is that really no matter who you are if you’re Black and female or just Black, people don’t want to listen to you,” she said at that time. She also noted the temptation to prioritize herself and not seek a second term.
“I’m not choosing me, even though I’m exhausted, and my hair is turning gray,” she continued. “My friends ask me, ‘What is your body telling you?’ and my body is telling me you are all destroying me.”
The last year has not been easy for Walker, who was struck with an unprecedented amount of challenges after COVID-19 rocked the city. At the start of 2020, Tarron Richardson, the former city manager, resigned suddenly. Walker also became embroiled in a scathing credit card scandal after using her city-funded card to make some purchases. She was not charged or investigated for the alleged accusations, Charlottesville Tomorrow reported.
Walker’s withdrawal comes weeks after the termination of Charlottesville’s former police chief, RaShall Brackney, whom she says also contributed to her decision to leave.
“There’s only been a handful of people who’ve been working on breaking down institutional racism,” Walker said last week following Brackney’s firing. “We’re losing someone who is doing this work.”