Former John Lewis boss Andy Street cemented a series of Conservative victories in the elections for new English regional mayors.
Mr Street won the contest to become the West Midlands regional leader, defeating former Labour MP Sion Simon.
Labour’s Andy Burnham won in Greater Manchester, despite the party suffering heavy losses in council elections.
The Tories have four out of six new mayors, including the Tees Valley and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region were won comfortably by Labour without needing to consider voters’ second preferences under the supplementary voting system.
The elections see “metro” mayors take the reins of groups of councils known as combined authorities.
The West Midlands contest, which includes the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton as well as Solihull and the Black Country, came down to a margin of 1% in the first round.
Conservative Mr Street took 216,280 votes to Mr Simon’s 210,259. He won by 3,766 votes after second preferences of those who opted for other candidates were counted.
Mr Street said it was the start of a “new, urban Conservative agenda”.
Overall, 26% of eligible voters chose a candidate with most people staying away from the polling stations on Thursday.
The result is a big upset for Labour, which won 21 out of 28 constituencies in the 2015 general election.
Mr Street, whose high-profile election campaign is reported to have cost almost 1m, gave up his business career last year to stand for the newly-created mayoral post.
In his victory speech, Mr Burnham promised to be a mayor for everyone in the area whether they voted for him or not.
The 47-year-old former health secretary, who represented Leigh as an MP, said: “This is the dawn of a new era, not just for this city region but for politics in our country, that has been too London-centric for too long.
“The old political and party structures haven’t delivered for all people and all places. They have created this crisis in politics which we are living through now.”
Turnout was just under 29%, ranging from 32% in Stockport and Bury to 25% in Salford and Rochdale. Mr Burnham won 63%, with 359,352 votes.
Elsewhere the Conservatives have won at least two of the six new mayoral contests and are in the lead in two more.
In Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen won after a run-off against Labour’s Sue Jeffrey.
Turnout was just 21%.
Mr Houchen described the result a “political earthquake” after he won by 481 votes in the first round but extended his lead after the second preferences of those who had voted for the other candidates were re-counted.
Conservative Tim Bowles was declared the winner in the West of England, where turnout was less than 30%.
However, experts said this was better than the historically low turnouts for police and crime commissioners.
Steve Rotheram won the role as mayor of Liverpool City Region with 171,176 votes, on a turnout of 26%.
Mr Rotheram, who was the MP for Liverpool Walton since 2010, was declared the winner after the first round of counting because he received more than 50% of votes cast.
Turnout was low in all areas of the region, averaging just 26.1%. Just 20.5% of people voted in Halton, while 28.6% voted in Liverpool.
Mr Bowles won the 62,000-a-year West of England post with 70,300 votes. Turnout was only 29.7%, with 199,519 voting out of a possible 671,280.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) he will lead brings together councils for Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
Turnout for the region was lowest in Bristol South, where just 25.55% of people voted, and highest in Bristol West, where 40.7% of people chose a candidate.
In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough it was 33% overall, varying from 26.7% in Fenland to 42.4% in South Cambridgeshire.
James Palmer, the Conservative candidate, won the first round with 76,064 and went on to win in the second round. The Liberal Democrat candidate Rod Cantrill won 47,026 votes in the first round.
Alongside voting for the region’s first mayor, 61 councillors are being elected to the county council .
In Peterborough, where there were no council elections, turnout was 24.7% which equates to 33,201 votes.
However, the turnouts for the mayors are better than those for the first police and crime commissioner elections in 2012, which saw just 14.9% of voters cast a ballot.
Experts said the turnout in the mayoral elections gave the new leaders the same level of mandate as local councillors.
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of think tank the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) said: “So far, in most of the areas where we have figures for turnout it’s been around the 30% mark. That’s broadly in line with turn out for the county council elections that happened yesterday and with local elections generally. It’s certainly far better than the disastrously low turnout we saw in the first police and crime commissioner elections.
“The new metro mayors will be local government leaders working with other leaders, often heading cabinets of council leaders: this level of turnout will mean they can do this with the same level of mandate as the rest of local government.
“Most incoming mayors will be privately pleased with this level of turnout, while hoping to raise their profile in office and improve significantly upon it next time they go to the polls.”
Simon Edwards, director of the County Councils Network, said: “The picture across the country where turnout figures are available shows that more people are getting out to vote in county areas compared to the urban metro mayor contests.
“Importantly, this arguably shows people identify more with their county and the strong local governance already in place in rural England, showcasing why there should not be an arbitrary requirement for a directly-elected mayor in place for significant devolution deals to take place in England’s counties.”
A government spokesman said: “Turnout in the first ever regional “metro” mayoral elections is in line with recent elections of a similar size. Local people had the opportunity in these elections to shape how their area is run.”