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.

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