The Mexico Ledger would like to congratulate Ayanna Shivers on her ascension as the first black female mayor in the history of Mexico.

Shivers has said her mayoralship is a symbol of progress in a city where the first black mayor, Herman O. Tolson, was elected in 1974, and the first female mayor, Virginia Robertson, was elected in 2005.

Shivers wished her relatives who lived through segregation were alive to see this achievement in her community, she told Mexico Ledger reporter Charles Dunlap, which can be heard on our area news podcast, “Mid-Missouri Regional Review.” We are sure they would be extremely proud of her service to the community. Many congratulations and celebrations are in order.

As we celebrate, I also think it is important to take a look at where Mexico can still show progress.

Mexico has taken a step forward for racial diversity in local government, but there is still room to advance in the pursuit of economic equity. These are the same issues unfortunately facing many communities throughout our nation, and it will likely take people on the local level, like Shivers, making a big difference in their individual communities to effect national progress.

About 18.5 percent of Mexicoans live below the poverty line, which exceeds the national average by roughly 6 percentage points. Most impoverished people in Mexico are white, which makes sense as there are more than 13 white residents for every one black resident, according to U.S. Census data. But the poverty rate for white Mexicoans is roughly 17 percent, while it’s more than 30 percent for black residents. The female poverty rate is also about 5 percent more than the poverty rate for Mexico’s men.

The average salary for employed white residents is about $42,000, while black residents average slightly less at $41,000. These numbers seem to be better than national levels, in which the median income for white people is more than $66,000 and black people bring in a median of about $40,000. The area’s racial wage gap is most stark in the education field, where white staff members earn a little less than $35,000 on average, while black staff members earn a little more than $10,000 on average in the area of Lincoln, Warren, Audrain, Pike and Montgomery counties, according to the American Community Survey. That indicates most of the black staff members work in lower level positions than teachers or administrators.

We’ve heard some black Mexico residents voice frustration with the economic opportunities in their city, including the late Ta'Juan Williams, who was shot and killed by a teenager earlier this year. Our reporter heard his friends and family say Williams was a positive voice in the community who encouraged young people to stay in school. A person who attended his vigil also said Williams had encouraged young black people to seek opportunities in other cities.

I hope that the election of Shivers will be a positive boost to Mexico residents, especially its African American youth, and spur new efforts to improve economic equality in the community.

Allen Fennewald is the GateHouse Missouri regional editor, overseeing The Mexico Ledger, Moberly-Monitor Index, Boonville Daily News and Hannibal Courier-Post. He can be reached at afennewald@gatehousemedia.com. “Regional Review” is the column form of the “Mid-Missouri Regional Review” podcast, which highlights regional issues that affect our communities. The podcast can be found online at omny.fm/shows/mid-missouri-regional-review.