NORTH MIAMI, Fla. - It's a new era at North Miami City Hall, where Lucie Tondreau is the first Haitian-American woman to hold the mayoral office after winning a run-off election.
Tondreau went on Haitian radio Wednesday to thank the voters who helped her defeat former Mayor Kevin Burns 56 to 44 percent on Tuesday, an election marked by the city's racial divisions.
"This is politics," Tondreau told Local 10's Michael Putney. "Usually, when there's elections, there's passion and people take one side or the other. I don't think the city is as divided as people seem to think it is."
Divisions in North Miami have grown as Haitian-American political power has increased. The election showed the differences between the mostly white, well-to-do east side and the poorer, mostly Haitian-American west side.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, North Miami is 33 percent white, 44 percent black and 27 percent Hispanic. Many of those Hispanics also identify themselves as white.
"Some people did try to make a division of the ethnicities -- black-white, east-west -- but I hope we're going to move forward," said newly elected North Miami City Councilwoman Carol Keys. "It's my intention to unite everybody and get beyond that."
But uniting North Miami may be difficult. Florida State Rep. Daphne Campbell said on Haitian radio, "White people won't help you."
"I didn't hear it myself since I was busy campaigning," said Tondreau. "I don't think she meant it the way she said it. There have been many negative things from the east side to the west side and vice versa, and she probably just reacted to it."
Tondreau is also entering a city administration plagued by misjudgments and nepotism.
"[I'm] absolutely willing to work with Ms. Tondreau," said Keys. "I'm hoping that she means what she says and that she does intend to help the city diversify."
"The division is only among a small group of white people on the east side that believes the city belongs to them and they're the only ones with the right to run the city," said Tondreau.
The new mayor and city council will be sworn in on June 10.
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