Gary, Ind.'s First Black Female Mayor Looks to Revive City

The troubled city looks to Karen Freeman-Wilson, its first African-American female mayor, for guidance.

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Karen Freeman-Wilson (NWI Times)

A city famously known as the birthplace of Michael Jackson has over the years become more associated with words that have a negative connotation, like "crime" and "murder."

But Gary, Ind.'s first African-American female mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson, plans to change all of that, saying her term in office will bring a "new day." "I'm going to lead the process," Freeman-Wilson told ABC 7. "I'm certainly not a magician."

On New Year's Day, Freeman-Wilson will begin her term as mayor of the struggling Midwestern city. Gary, which was once named the country's murder capital, has experienced a 10,000-person population drop in the last five years as opportunities have become minimal and crime plentiful.

The Harvard Law School graduate and former Indiana attorney general knows what her biggest challenge will be in her hometown. "I say without pause, it's restoring hope and collective responsibility," Freeman-Wilson told ABC 7.

Freeman-Wilson has a battle on her hands in a city where a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line and the median income is $27,000.

With African Americans making up more than 84 percent of Gary's population and black unemployment the highest of any race in the country, it will be interesting to see what job-creation efforts Freeman-Wilson can bring to Gary, which was once an industrial hub and home to many middle-class African Americans.

Freeman-Wilson definitely has the support of the people -- she garnered 86 percent of the vote in the election. Only time will tell how much change she can bring to a city that has been on a steady decline for more than 40 years.

Read more at ABC Local.

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