Though Petition Seeks His Ouster, Ferguson Mayor Says He Is Best Leader for City

Though Petition Seeks His Ouster, Ferguson Mayor Says He Is Best Leader for City

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles speaks during a meeting of the Ferguson City Council Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The meeting is the first for the city council since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a city police officer. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles speaks during a meeting of the Ferguson City Council Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

John Eligon, THE NEW YORK TIMES

FERGUSON, Mo. (The New York Times) — Like many people who dive into small-town politics, James W. Knowles III, the mayor of Ferguson, wanted to tend to life’s everyday concerns when he first ran for elected office years ago: repairing streets, building parks, organizing festivals.

The Ferguson he came to know while growing up here was one in which he went to school alongside black students without a problem, where church activities and community festivals were part of life.

But ever since a white Ferguson police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager eight months ago, Mr. Knowles, who is white, has been thrust into the spotlight in a fiery national debate over race, class and law enforcement.