Before the real work in Prince George’s County begins, the newly elected officials had their day in the sun as inauguration officially ushered in a new era in Prince George’s politics.

“Today, as we journey down the path to greatness, remember that we will start together and we will finish together,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. “In one unified voice, we say to people of this state, this region: We are Prince George’s County.”

One of the big questions of the day was answered with little controversy as Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, D.-Dist. 6, took her oath to one of the larger ovations of the day. Johnson, along with her husband, former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, was arrested last month on federal corruption charges. After the ceremony, Johnson said, “The voters have spoken,” in response to why she felt comfortable taking her oath.

The inauguration took place in blistering cold conditions on the outside deck of the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro. The luminaries were great and vast at the ceremony. Sen. Ben Cardin (D); Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Dist.4; Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (D); District Councilman Marion Barry, D.-Ward 8; Washington Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray (D); former Prince George’s County Executives Wayne Curry and Paris Glendening and various members of the state legislature.

The Surrattsville High School Marching Band provided pre-inauguration entertainment followed by the Prince George’s Police Bag Pipe band. Former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Dorothy F. Bailey presided over the proceedings.

The nine Prince George’s Council members, four returning and five new, were sworn in by former Councilwoman and current Clerk of the Circuit Court Marilyn Bland. Bland remarked that it was a bittersweet day because she’s no longer working on the council yet she still gets to take part in the special day for the nine council members.

Councilwoman Andrea Harrison, D.-Dist. 5, made comments on behalf of the entire council as she enters her second term. In her speech, Harrison copied Baker’s campaign motto, “making a good county great” and took it to another level.

“Well, Mr. Baker, I see your message and I raise you even higher,” Harrison said. “We’re going to make a great county even greater.”

Baker then took his oath followed by a speech to the crowd. In his speech, he spoke about restoring trust in the County’s government in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Johnsons.

“I’m going to start by working to restore confidence in our county government,” Baker said to a murmuring crowd. “Overall, I believe we have good people working for our government who are committed to serving you and I believe that they are critical to the success of this county and your quality of life.

“I will remind them that they must be good stewards of your tax dollars being ever mindful that you pay their salaries and fund this government,” he continued.

Baker immediately made his first official decisions as well. Baker named several new interim heads of Prince George’s County agencies including the replacement for Police Chief Roberto Hylton, Mark Magaw, a 27-year veteran of the department.

Later that night, the mood relaxed as people migrated to the Potomac Room at the Gaylord National at the National Harbor for the Inaugural Ball.

Many of the same luminaries came decked out in their best as the Council and Baker got in one last night of celebration before their first workday began.

Curry and “Good Times” star, Bern Nadette Stanis, hosted the ball. Abby Koya performed an opera song with the special performances by Grammy-award winning R&B singer Regina Belle and XPD Band.

The night ended with dancing as Prince George’s now begins anew.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO