Newburgh Heights will have 1st Black mayor after accusations council was trying to prevent historic moment

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 11:19 PM EDT
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NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - Gigi Traore will soon become the first African-American mayor of Newburgh Heights, despite rumors swirling on social media that her own colleagues were actively working to prevent the historic move.

“There was a lot of evidence and material that suggested that was the case,” Traore told 19 News. “Once we had clarification and thorough conversations, council raised questions, I provided answers and they’re comfortable with me moving forward.”

The council scheduled a special meeting Monday night to discuss the mayoral succession plan in the wake of current mayor Trevor Elkins’ legal trouble.

As part of a plea deal related to fraud charges, Elkins must resign.

The meeting was mentioned in multiple and identical social media posts by elected officials from surrounding communities.

“Newburgh Heights Village Council is set to remove the village’s first black Council President Pro Tempore, Gigi Traore. This is a move to prevent her from becoming the village’s first black Mayor,” the post said.

“That is absolutely not true,” said councilmember Bill Dunman. “That was never the intent.”

After more than an hour in executive session, the village council returned to chambers and announced the discussion would be tabled and Traore would remain president pro tempore and would become mayor when Elkins resigns.

“The meeting was not called to take specific action or not take action. It was to give council an opportunity to hear Ms. Traore and to respond as a council, which we did,” said Dunman.

Several people filled council chambers during the meeting in support of Traore, most of them holding signs or photos of her.

Traore said she believes such a strong showing of support played a factor in the final decision.

“I do believe that. My council colleagues shared that they received a lot of pushback,” she told 19 News.

Its unclear when she will become mayor; Elkins refused to say when he will officially resign.

Traore, who is already the first African-American to serve on Newburgh Heights village council, now prepares for another historic first.

“It feels heavy, to be honest. But it feels amazing,” she said.

Elkins is due in court on April 14th, his resignation is expected to take effect a short time later.

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