When she came to Boston in 1979 for an internship after her junior year in college, Charlotte Golar Richie’s family worried about her.
The city was reeling from a racially turbulent decade defined by the school busing upheaval and questions about whether its white ethnic and African-American working class communities could bridge their differences.
African-Americans, in particular, were leery of “the reputation of the city,’’ she said. “My family wasn’t really any different, but that didn’t stop me from coming,’’ Richie said Wednesday.
Now, as a wife, mother, homeowner, and nonprofit executive, Richie has decided to run for mayor of the city her family once worried would not welcome her.
“I think I would be able to build on the accomplishments of the Menino administration and take the city to the next level,’’ Richie said.
The former chief of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development and a one-time top aide to Governor Deval Patrick becomes the first major female African-American candidate in a field now counts two dozen hopefuls. But the 54-year-old Brooklyn native said her demographic singularity is far from the front of her mind as she confronts a six-month campaign that will give Boston its first new mayor in more than 20 years.
“I’m so happy it doesn’t feel that way,’’ Richie said, while sitting in a conference room at her campaign manager’s office on Charles Street in Beacon Hill.
Richie, who lives in Meetinghouse Hill in Dorchester, said she is more focused on promoting economic development, quality education, and public safety. A Peace Corps alumna, she said she is proud of the city issued permits for 18,000 housing units during her term as housing director.
Before joining Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration, Richie was a state representative, from 1994 to 1999. Before running for that seat, Richie said her neighbors encouraged her to draw on her experience as a television reporter and staffer at a state housing agency to challenge the incumbent, state Representative Althea Garrison.
She decided to run in part because of her frustration over what she calls the major media’s focus on negative stories about Dorchester rather than its positive ones.
As a legislator, she assembled an advisory committee of 20 to 30 neighbors and activists, a template she said she would consider resurrecting as mayor.
“People do hold that up as a way to encourage the involvement of people,’’ Richie said.
On Beacon Hill, Richie helped shepherd a housing bond bill, which, she said, caught Menino’s attention. After eight years with Menino, Richie said, she was captivated by Patrick’s candidacy.
“The energy and the excitement, I don’t know if that could ever be duplicated,’’ she said.
Richie’s tenure with Patrick was relatively brief. Internal friction, according to sources close to Patrick, led to Richie’s transfer to the governor’s political committee.
After a year with Patrick’s political operation, she joined YouthBuild USA, a national nonprofit focused on affordable housing and underprivileged youngsters.
Now, she says, she is ready to return to City Hall not as an aide, but as mayor.