Six men were sworn in Monday as members of the D.C. Council, including three who won in a contentious primary to unseat incumbents supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
One of those three was former Mayor Vincent Gray, who will represent Ward 7 and assured residents Monday that health care will be brought to those east of the Anacostia River.
“Too many people in our city have watched while some neighborhoods benefit from prosperity and others remain stagnant,” said Gray, who will chair the council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “Refuse to accept anything less but success.”
Among the hundreds of attendees at the ceremony at the Walter E. Convention Center in northwest D.C. was former Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, who lost her seat to Gray in the Democratic primary.
“This is still my city that I love so well,” said Alexander, who plans to do health care consulting. “I am not leaving this city, so I am going to still hold them accountable.”
The ceremony was briefly disrupted at the start while Bowser spoke, as three people walked in front of the stage and quietly held signs that read “#JavonHall,” “#Terrence Sterling” and “#Release The Tapes,” in reference to two men who were fatally shot by city police. The ceremony continued after city officials and two police officers escorted them away.
All six city councilmen had family and friends stand on stage with them as each repeated the oath of office to serve on the 13-member council.
The three councilmen who won re-election are: Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who will begin his eighth term; Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), who won a special election for Bowser’s vacated seat in 2015 and now begins a full, four-year term; and at-large member David Grosso, who’ll begin his second term in office.
At-large Councilman Robert White Jr., who defeated incumbent Vincent Orange in the Democratic primary, has actually held the seat since September, when he was appointed by the D.C. Democratic Party to serve in an interim role after Orange resigned to lead the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
White said three key topics he wants to focus on are education, affordable housing and workforce development.
“Voters showed that they will absolutely change the guard if they don’t believe they are being focused on,” he said. “I know if I lose their trust, or their confidence, then I will be out of here as quickly as I got here. That’s a responsibility I take seriously.”
The last to be sworn in, Trayon White Sr., who defeated LaRuby May in the primary to represent Ward 8, received a rousing ovation from dozens of supporters chanting his campaign’s slogan, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”
After the 90-minute ceremony, White said one of his initiatives will be to help create a state-of-the-art job placement facility to boost employment in a city with the highest unemployment rates per capita in the country.
Besides being the youngest on council, the 2002 Ballou Senior High School graduate will also fill the former seat of the city’s most beloved leader, the late Marion Barry.
“One thing that Barry always said was, ‘Trayon, dream big. Enough of that small thinking,’” White said. “That always stood with me that we can do the impossible, especially with the resources that we have in the District of Columbia.”
White had plenty of supporters such as his high school classmate Rodney Norman, and senior citizens such as Rebecca Washington, a Ward 1 resident who sported a button with a picture of Barry.
“I know Marion Barry would be very, very proud of this young man,” Washington said. “I see [White] encouraging the youth throughout the city. He’s not only going to touch D.C., he’s going to touch the world and make the world a better place.”
Before the benediction, council chair Phil Mendelson gave a simple but profound assessment of the newest iteration of the 13-member council: “I think this will be one of the best councils ever.”