Sharon Pratt (born January 30, 1944), formerly Sharon Pratt Dixon and Sharon Pratt Kelly, is an American attorney and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she notably served as the third mayor of the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1995, the first African-American woman in that position.
Born in Washington, D.C., she attended public schools there, ultimately graduating from Roosevelt High School before earning B.A. and J.D. degrees from Howard University. After graduating, Pratt served as in-house counsel for the Joint Center for Political Studies from 1970 to 1971 and worked as an associate in her father’s law firm, Pratt and Queen. In 1972, she was named a Professor of Law at the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., a post she held for four years. In 1976, Dixon began working for Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), the utility company for the Washington, D.C. area. Eventually becoming Vice President of Public Policy, Pratt was both the first woman and the first African American to hold this position.
Pratt was actively involved in the Democratic Party. In 1977 she was elected as the Democratic National Committeewoman from the District of Columbia, a post she held until 1980. She later served as the Democratic National Committee Eastern Regional Chairwoman from 1980 to 1984. In 1982 she directed the unsuccessful Washington, D.C. mayoral campaign of Patricia Roberts Harris. From 1985 to 1989 she was the Democratic National Committee Treasurer. Pratt became the first woman to hold that position. Upset with the decline of her hometown, Pratt announced at the 1988 Democratic National Convention that she would challenge incumbent mayor Marion Barry in the 1990 election. After Barry dropped out of the race in early 1990, Pratt faced longtime councilmembers John Ray, Charlene Drew Jarvis and David Clarke instead, ultimately receiving ten percent more of the primary vote than second-place finisher Ray. As Washington is a heavily Democratic city, her victory over the Republican candidate, former police chief Maurice T. Turner, Jr., in the November 6 general election was a foregone conclusion. She was sworn in as mayor of Washington on January 2, 1991.
Once in office, Pratt's grassroots, reform posture met resistance. She made good on her promises to clean house, requesting the resignations of all Barry appointees the day after her election; however, as she began to slash the city employment payroll, her political support began to weaken. She angered labor leaders who claimed she had promised not to fire union employees, and began mandating unpaid furloughs and wage freezes citywide. According to the Washington City Paper, Pratt "was never able to get control of a city government still loyal to Barry, and she often mistrusted the advice she got from aides." In the spring of 1992, just over a year into her term, Barry loyalists mounted a recall campaign, which, although unsuccessful, weakened her administration and forced Pratt to tread more carefully with the public, backing away from her reform efforts. Pratt's drive to achieve D.C. statehood in order to improve the District's financial and political standing created fierce opposition from Republican members of Congress. In 1994, Pratt finished a distant third in the Democratic primary behind former Mayor Marion Barry and Councilmember John Ray.
From 1997 to 2001, Pratt served as the President of @ The Center, a start-up electrical marketplace for Africa. In 2002, Pratt began Pratt Consulting, working with companies and governments developing Homeland Security/Emergency Management Plans. She is also the Executive Vice President for BI Solutions.