WASHINGTON (AP) — Vincent C. Gray was sworn in Sunday as the sixth elected mayor of the District of Columbia, promising to be an executive who would unite the diverse residents of the nation’s capital.
The new mayor took the oath of office at 11:57 a.m., just three minutes before D.C. law mandated that his predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty, vacate the office.
Gray, a 68-year-old Democrat, campaigned as a more inclusive leader than the hard-charging Fenty, who drew criticism for his autocratic style and alienated some residents of the district’s poorer neighborhoods. In his inaugural address, Gray returned to his campaign theme of “One City.”
“While there are some who choose to focus on the racial or economic differences in our city, make no mistake: There is far more that brings us together than there is that drives us apart,” Gray said.
Gray repeated his pledge for a “collaborative and holistic” approach to education reform that includes teachers and parents. His victory was seen as a rejection of Fenty’s polarizing schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee, who fired hundreds of teachers and drove up test scores. Rhee stepped down shortly after the election.
Gray is a D.C. native who has held leadership posts in city government and at nonprofits. He served as D.C. Council chairman before becoming mayor.
He said he would continue the fight for full voting rights in Congress, despite a perceived lack of support from the incoming Republican House leadership. The district will not reach its full potential without representation, Gray said.
“We cannot rest until we achieve true self-determination and, yes, become our nation’s 51st state,” he said.
Gray and Fenty embraced onstage, and the new mayor told reporters afterward that his administration would welcome Fenty’s continued participation in public service. Several D.C. Council members praised Fenty during their inaugural remarks.
Fenty “made our city better,” Councilman David Catania said.
Councilman Jim Graham thanked Fenty for his “splendid, determined, conscientious work on behalf of the people of the District of Columbia.”
The inaugural ceremonies at the Washington Convention Center drew dignitaries including Attorney General Eric Holder, who administered the oath of office to D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown; Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.
D.C. Councilman and former mayor Marion Barry, a Gray supporter, said Gray would not ignore the district’s most disadvantaged residents.
“For the city, for the people, for Washington, this is a great transformation,” Barry told The Associated Press. “Adrian Fenty took us backward. Vince Gray is taking us not just forward, but way forward.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)