TEMPE, AZ - Mark Mitchell smiled as he officially became Tempe's new mayor after being sworn in Monday night.
But it was a bitter and nasty battle for him to get there.
“As you probably know, it was a contentious election,” admitted Mitchell.
In the May Tempe Mayoral election, Mitchell narrowly beat out opponent Michael Monti by just 139 votes.
“[We’re] just two families who have been in this community for a very, very long time. I think it was an opportunity for residents to hear what we both had to say. It's the just nature of the... I think all elections now are becoming more close,” said Mitchell.
In the final days leading up to the election, a Tempe woman came forward and accused Mitchell of sexually abusing her nearly 30 years ago when the two were kids.
For the first time, Mitchell spoke publicly to ABC15 about the accusations.
“At the end of the day, the allegations were false. We knew that," Mitchell said.
After investigating, prosecutors declined to file charges in the case.
Mitchell called the claims a smear campaign.
Some even argued the accusations helped Mitchell by bringing out more of his supporters outraged at the dirty politics.
“I don't know if it helped me but I think residents saw what was going on. It's destructive politics and a lot of people don't like that right now,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is now putting the past behind him and is focused on leading Tempe.
He believes the economy continues to be one of the biggest challenges for the city so he promises to be fiscally responsible.
He said he is also a big advocate of several development projects in the city which he hopes will attract new businesses and jobs to Tempe.
Mitchell said Tempe is the largest importer of jobs per resident than any other city in the Valley so he wants to maintain that standard.
But he knows things will not be easy and that he'll have to prove himself not only to his supporters but to those who didn't vote for him.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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