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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harvey B. Gantt, January 6, 1986. Interview C-0008. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gantt's love for politics

Gantt explains why he loves politics. He sees the roots of his political career in his childhood, when he showed a talent at pleasing groups of people. He loves people, but he seems even more to love bringing people together to get things done. The mayoralty of Charlotte is a more powerful office than in other southern cities, and Gantt is enthusiastic about using his influence to develop the city. This excerpt reveals the connection between Gantt's interest in architecture and his interest in politics: both are about marshaling resources to build something durable.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harvey B. Gantt, January 6, 1986. Interview C-0008. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I've talked to reporters who covered you and they say that you really enjoy the political process, that being out and meeting people and all those kinds of things. I would find it very gruelling and I'd just like to ask you why you enjoy it.
I love people. I love this city. I like what I'm doing. I think I'm very comfortable with myself first, so you start there and then the second thing is that I've always been one who sort of enjoyed working with people. My mother tells a joke about as a boy growing up and wanted to keep all the little boys in my yard playing marbles. I would always be inventing things to do to keep them interested. She said a little bit manipulative maybe, too, to the extent that I would open up the refrigerator and whatever was in there my playmates would have their choice. Apples, for example. She buys a dozen and I take the apples out and there was somebody who looked like they were getting a little impatient, I'd offer apples to the crowd. Well, people see that as an effort always to try to work with people and to be with them and I don't like being alone. I like being around people. Yet, in many ways I am alone in this office. I mean, being the mayor, but I just enjoy working with folks.
When you said that you were infatuated with politics, there is certainly more to politics than involvement with people. What else have you been infatuated with?
Power. To get things done, I mean. You know, mayors in North Carolina are not strong mayors as they are in other states. But Charlotte comes closest to being the strongest mayor that you have with veto power and the ability to appoint people, the ability to set the agenda for what the city ought to be thinking about or doing. It is definitely in the mayor's office and it has been dictated in the years past by other mayors. But it's the ability to get things to happen for the good. I think I've seen a different kind of world since being an eleven-year-old boy. That big decision on segregation being unconstitution. There is a different possibility for the South and for North Carolina and South Carolina and other places. And I think in my own mind I see that unfolding every day. And the ability to help that unfold, to see a state where education is a top priority and people are literate, trained using the best of all of our resources, whether they are black or white, is important to me. If I get an opportunity to get that to happen just a little bit quicker by being mayor of Charlotte, it's important to move us along.
What would you say is you biggest accomplishment as mayor?
People working together. There is a lot more communication in this town than in a lot of other places. When I hear about other communities having race relation problems, Charlotte certainly hasn't reached the millenium in terms of that either but there is a fairly good network going on in this community. I can pick the phone up right now and talk to the Greek community, the Jewish community, the black community, and so forth and so on. And we can have everybody in this office inside a couple of hours to resolve a problem. That's very important. It's just as important as getting the community to attract new industry, build the next highrise, build the next park. When you've got the people sort of working together you can get them to put away their thing for our thing, that is the city. That to me is a big accomplishment. I see a lot of that happening. We passed a lot of bond issues, big ones, since I've been mayor and they've all overwhelmingly passed because we could get a diverse group of people who might have been disparate on that issue but once we get them in here and start talking and we get them to go with us, the city.