Phil Mendelson elected as new interim D.C. Council Chairman

Mendelson takes the gavel as the interim council chair. Photo: Mark Segraves

(AP/ABC7) - Reeling from the latest scandal to touch the Wilson building, the D.C. Council elected at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson Wednesday as its new interim chairman.

Mendelson was selected as the chair by an 11-1 vote. At the same time, councilmember Michael Brown was appointed the council's new chairman pro tempore. In his fourth term, Mendelson was considered to be the certain choice going into the vote.

The goal for both Mendelson and Brown is to push forward with city business in the wake of the resignation of former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and campaign finance violation charges last week.

"I'm not looking to any dramatic moves," Mendelson said. "Anything I do, I'm going to talk to colleagues, because this is a collaborative body."

It was a meeting and a vote that didn't go off without emotions spilling over. At-large councilmember Vincent Orange was the only member to vote against Mendelson and Michael Brown, who was chosen as the new chair pro tempore, after insisting on receiving Brown's spot.

"I'm the best," Orange said. "Today, Vincent Bernard Orange, Sr. is the best candidate for pro tempore. The best."

The debate even led to Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander to break down and demand that members of the council treat each other amicably.

"I wouldn't be so quick to say how honest and forthright we are," Alexander said through tears. "When we're so self-righteous talking about how we are...tomorrow, we could be in handcuffs."

Several councilmembers have said the careful, self-effacing Mendelson will provide the steady leadership the legislative body needs. After the vote, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray congratulated Mendelson on his ascent to the chair position.

Brown became the second councilmember to step down after pleading guilty to a federal offense this year. Earlier this year, Harry Thomas Jr. admitted embezzling $350,000 from the city and is heading to prison for three years.

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