Washington officially got a new mayor this week when Sharon Pratt Dixon was sworn in as the first woman to lead the District of Columbia. At her inauguration, Dixon, a former utility company executive who had never held elective office, pledged "to give the people of this city the government they deserve and respect," and said what Washingtonians wanted most from their elected officials was simply "an honest deal."
Dixon assumes office at a time when the District faces a mounting budget deficit, growing street violence and troubled schools. She won election on a promise to combat municipal waste and corruption and hold the line on taxes and essential services. As the region increasingly feels the pinch of the national economic slowdown, these issues will provide an early test of her leadership. Dixon also pledged to cut 2,000 jobs from the city payroll, a task which could put her at odds with the bureaucracy she must depend on to carry out her reforms.
Yet after more than a decade of increasingly erratic rule by former Mayor Marion S. Barry, Dixon's election clearly offers new hope to Washington residents. If she can now bring to City Hall the competence and integrity that was the hallmark of her come-from-behind campaign for mayor, her tenure will be a welcome fresh start for good government in the nation's capital.