NEW YORK (AP) — Mel Wymore is a typical city council candidate in many ways, campaigning as a community board appointee, ex-PTA chair and founder of a roster of local organizations. But Wymore's community-leader resume has an unusual feature: He built much of it while he was a woman.
If he wins, Wymore would be the first openly transgender person elected to public office in the nation's biggest city and one of only a handful ever in the U.S., though his campaign is neither emphasizing his personal story nor sidestepping it.
"I want to create the inclusive community, and it goes beyond my personal identity," said Wymore, 51. "But it actually lends a lot to my story and my credibility as a candidate. I'm honest, I'm brave, I'm forthright, and I'm willing to stand up for change."
Wymore, a Democrat, faces several opponents who also have long records of community involvement on Manhattan's upscale, liberal Upper West Side.
Nationwide, at least five transgender people have won city, school board and judicial elections, including Mayor Stu Rasmussen in Silverton, Ore. Perhaps dozens of others have run across the country; it's unclear whether any such candidate has run for city office in New York, though a transgender New Yorker, Melissa Sklarz, holds a Democratic Party post that's on the ballot.
Wymore is a systems engineer, a specialist in structuring and managing complex projects. He fielded questions at a recent candidate forum with a courteous purposefulness, a handful of index cards for note-taking and a message of valuing "inclusion and care for the Earth and care for each other."
During 17 years on a city-appointed community board, two as chairman, Wymore raised money to renovate a run-down city recreation center that reopened Monday after facing a shaky future for years, among other projects. Colleagues say he's eagerly consultative but focused on finding resolution.
Wymore's personal life also has been shaped by a search for resolution. It took major turns in identity — twice — as Wymore raised two children and took on community roles, starting with co-founding a meal program 20 years ago.
He had a gleeful childhood as Melanie Wymore in Tucson, Ariz., and went on to college and a master's degree at the University of Arizona. Wymore worked for an aerospace company before moving to New York in the 1980s to further a relationship that became a marriage, and to work in engineering and technology consulting jobs.