" … for such a time as this."
Those words offered by the Rev. Bruce Haskins during the welcome and opening prayer at the swearing in of Baltimore City's new mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, echoed the truth of this moment in the history of the city. In a quiet, somber ceremony Feb. 4 in the Ceremony Room at City Hall, Mayor Rawlings-Blake took the oath of office, administered by Clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City the Hon. Frank M. Conaway.
The intimate setting of the Ceremony Room seemed barely large enough to hold the family of the mayor, the Baltimore City Council and the press, but it was just right and set the proper tone for the occasion.
After swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution and laws of the state of Maryland and to diligently and faithfully execute the office of the mayor of Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake signed the official books and took her place in history as the second African-American woman and 49th official to become mayor.
Taking a moment for hugs from Conaway and her daughter, the mayor made a brief speech. After thanking those in attendance, she acknowledged this new beginning hadn't come after a high note of victory, but was a result of undesirable circumstances. But she encouraged everyone to remember that the challenges need to be accepted and faced.
She expressed gratitude to those who've come forward to help the city during the transition in the coming days. "Now, today," she said, "it is time to come together, in unity, to confront our challenges as one united city. Trust, leadership and open dialogue will guide us in this process."
She mentioned the enormous task of the city budget and the looming of an over $100 million shortfall that must be addressed. "We will keep what works and fix what doesn't in city government so that our people emerge stronger," she said.
"Together, we can, and will build a better, safer, stronger Baltimore."
The ceremony served its official purpose – providing for the continuity of city leadership and setting the stage for the hard work to be done. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said, "This very ceremony was in the proper tone for the seriousness of the occasion. Good taste."
Clarke has a long history with Mayor Rawlings-Blake and said she's looking forward to working with her. She noted that perhaps for the first time in the history of the city, the mayor has a child attending the Baltimore City Public Schools and thought that gave her important insight for dealing with that aspect of her job.
"She made a good transition," said Clarke. "She kept a lot of good people on board."
Only a few of the retentions and appointments have been made public so far and those include Andrew Frank staying on as first deputy mayor and Sophie Dagenais serving as chief of staff.
In her remarks, the mayor made it clear the transition was not over and that there's still a lot of work to be done. This includes the vote, scheduled for the Feb. 8 meeting of the City Council, to elect a new Council president.