Muriel Bowser takes the oath of office while family members watch. (Photo by Rob Roberts)
District residents and political leaders from across the country gathered Jan. 2 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to witness the inauguration of Muriel Bowser as mayor of the nation’s capital. Inauguration activities spanned the first weekend of the year with several events for residents of all ages.
Bowser, 42, took the oath of office from District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric Washington. Her family was with her. Bowser said she is humbled to take the helm of the city. “It is the greatest honor of my life to be sworn in as the mayor of my hometown,” she said. “Today as we begin a new year, we come together to renew our commitment to this city. It’s a new day in Washington – a fresh start for all of the families that call D.C. home.”
Karl Racine was sworn in as the city’s first elected attorney general, and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) took their oaths of office to start another term. Charles Allen of Ward 6 (D), Brianne Nadeau of Ward 1 (D) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) took their oaths to start their careers as D.C. cuncil members, too.
Former D.C. Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty were in the audience as well as Alexandria, Va., Mayor William Euille, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter,and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Bowser noted Rawlings-Blake in her speech. “You probably know that there are a handful of women-Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Anise Parker (Houston), and Aja Brown (Compton, Calif.), among them who run big cities and today because of you I am one too,” she said.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D), Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett (D), Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks (D), and Prince George’s County Council member Karen Toles (D-District 7) were also in attendance.
Other events to commemorate the change in administration for the city included: a Freshstart 5k Fun-Run at Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, 2801 Calvert St. NW; an Interfaith Service at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW; a DC Proud Inaugural Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW; and an Inaugural Kids Party at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, 701 Mississippi Avenue SE.
Bowser won the April 1, 2014 Democratic Party mayoral primary over incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray and defeated two independent challengers in the Nov. 4, 2014 general election. As a result of the general election vote, Bowser said that she has a mandate to “reaffirm our Democratic values.”
While it is generally known that the District is booming economically and its population is growing, Bowser acknowledged that “our city is facing challenges that threaten our progress.”
“A quarter billion dollar budget deficit . . . stalled big ticket transit projects, ballooning construction costs and shrinking borrowing capacity that will force us to make tough decisions about our priorities,” she said. “But we will confront our challenges head on. Not tomorrow, but every day.”
Bowser said that she did not run for mayor “for the kicks or to see my name in lights” but because she understands the responsibility of leading the city at a time of great opportunity and great distress for some. “It is my duty to focus on our men and boys of color and find hope where it is missing and the path to opportunity where it has been lost,” Bowser said.
Bowser said her administration would encourage “creativity, risk-taking and innovation.” Accountability will be a priority, she said. “It is my pledge to sometimes take the road less protected, to see jobs and opportunities when others see only the costs, and to praise my staff when they get it right and to let them know when they get it wrong,” she said.
Bowser pledged during the campaign that she would appoint a deputy mayor for greater economic opportunity and during the speech noted that its office would be located in Southeast Washington’s Ward 8. “Ward 8, you will not be forgotten,” she said to cheers in the audience.
She promised to fight homelessness, transform the city’s middle schools academically, improve workforce development programs, invest $100 million in affordable housing, increase funds for the summer youth employment program, and to stop violence in the streets and in homes.
Bowser ended her speech with her well-known moniker: “Let’s get to work.” That sounded fine to E. Faye Williams, the national president and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women. Williams said, “She supports equality and justice and we will help her in any way. When she succeeds, we all succeed.”