Bernard C. "Jack" Young, picked by his fellow City Council members last year to lead the panel, won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to keep the office for four more years.
Surrounded by supporters at a victory celebration downtown, Young said he would not take his victory for granted.
"That's not my nature," said Young, 57. "People shouldn't feel trapped here. ... I just want to make Baltimore a place people want to live."
He said he plans to review and consider his opponents' ideas on vacant buildings, policing and the property tax.
In Democratic Baltimore, Young is heavily favored over the Republican nominee in the general election. Republican David A. Wiggins was leading Armand F. Girard for his party's nomination at press time.
The council president heads the city's spending board. The office was a stepping stone for five of the city's last seven mayors: Thomas D'Alesandro III, William Donald Schaefer, Clarence H. Du Burns, Sheila Dixon and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
In his brief tenure as president, Young pushed legislation to create a fund to pay for repairs to city schools, but language was stripped that would have appointed funding power to the council.
He has moved for more transparency in city government, airing public meetings on the city's cable channels. He has abstained from some key council votes, including the mayor's push for a bottle tax, which ultimately passed.
Brenda Anderson, who lives in the Parkside Harris neighborhood of Baltimore, said she voted for Young. She recalled that he had responded to her complaint about rats in the alley near her house.
"My own representative didn't answer me," said Anderson, 63, who volunteers in city schools. "Jack Young sent someone to help me."
While several of the council's incumbents appeared poised to win re-election, one veteran lawmaker lost her seat.
In West Baltimore's 7th District, Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, a member of the city's Conaway political dynasty, lost to Nick Mosby, a video manager at Verizon from Reservoir Hill. Mosby, 33, a former president of the Bolton Park Neighbors Association, was supported by Rawlings-Blake.
"The Conaway name is a strong name in West Baltimore, but there's a new leadership coming of age," Mosby said.
Shannon Sneed, a television news producer and political newcomer, lost by 15 votes to incumbent Warren Branch to represent East Baltimore's District 13.
In one of the most hotly contested races, to represent Charles Village and parts of East Baltimore, incumbent Carl Stokes won by a large margin. Stokes, who served on the council from 1987 to 2005, was selected by his colleagues to fill the 12th District seat left open when Young became council president last year; he faced six challengers.
In the race for the council's only open seat, Brandon M. Scott, a protégé of Rawlings-Blake's, won a six-way race. Scott, 27, has never held public office, but worked in the mayor's Office of Neighborhoods.
Incumbent William "Pete" Welch, who was appointed to the council last year when his mother, longtime Councilwoman Agnes Welch, stepped down, won his eight-way race in District 9.
Incumbent Helen Holton held off three challengers in District 8.
James B. Kraft, Robert W. Curran, Bill Henry, Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, Sharon Green Middleton and Edward L. Reisinger, all won Tuesday night. Two other incumbents, Mary Pat Clarke and William Cole, faced no opposition.
Sun reporters Julie Scharper and Steve Kilar contributed to this report.