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Jones’ swearing-in focuses on possibilities for change

CITY HALL – Tishaura Jones’ inauguration as the city’s first black woman mayor was more than a swearing-in. It was a full-fledged celebration of better times ahead.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians gave string music performances to the socially distanced crowd gathered Tuesday in masks in the City Hall Rotunda. Christian, Jewish and Islamic clergy offered prayers. And the mayors of Kansas City and East St. Louis offered words of praise, as did the St. Louis County executive and a state senator from the Kansas City area.

But the star was Jones, who was sworn in by Judge Angela Turner Quigless of the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals.

“Today serves as a reminder of what a city can be when we summon the best within ourselves, when we come together around a positive vision of change and opportunity for all in our city,” Jones said in an 15-minute inaugural address that emphasized the possibilities for hope and change.  

Jones was city treasurer when she defeated 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer in the April 20 general election. The new mayor took her oath following a swearing-in ceremony for longtime Comptroller Darlene Green, who ran without an opponent and was re-elected.

Jones spoke of the day when, as a 9-year-old, she arrived at City Hall with her then-activist father Virvus Jones. Virvus Jones became the first black alderman from the 27th Ward, and later comptroller.

“I am standing on stone that was now built for me. I am speaking in a rotunda that never envisioned my ascent to mayor,” Tishaura Jones said. “I’m going to walk into an office that my ancestors could have never imagined me working in. But I’m here.”

Jones said she was here because her grandparents migrated from the Jim Crow South. She also is here because of the voluntary desegregation program that bused her from north St. Louis to Affton, she said, mentioning a number of the experiences she’s had on the way to the mayor’s office. 

“Most importantly, I’m here today because of you, because you voted, because you got involved, and because you chose to be inspired by a movement of people and a vision for St. Louis seeking to move our city and our region forward,” Jones said. 

“My commitment to you is to be a mayor for you and your family, whether you supported me or not,” she emphasized.

“Most St. Louisan share some core desires,” Jones continued. “As a single mom, I share these desires myself. I want to raise my son in a safe neighborhood. I want him to receive a quality education. I want him to be able to envision himself safely raising a family in St. Louis one day as well. We want all our children to grow and learn and develop and to play in the dirt.”

“I stand here before  you resolved to make change, to transform our city and our approach to safety,” Jones pledged.

In remarks before Jones’ swearing-in, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas mentioned the day’s unseasonal snow, and said, “What’s this? Is Mother Nature telling us things are changing?” He called Jones a friend and mentor and said “I am so excited” that Jones would be mayor.

“Give her your love and support,” Lucas said. “Give her your prayers.” 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page spoke of the need to speak up against injustices. “This noise, good trouble, will inform the policy of the city of St. Louis.” His presence shows he agrees with that, he said. ”This is a turning point in history. We should all celebrate.”

Echoing Lucas, East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III said, “Somebody must have said, ‘It’s going to snow in April when we have the first black mayor.'” He also said he didn’t remember a time when a mayor of East St. Louis was invited to the swearing in of a St. Louis mayor.

Kansas City-area state Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls said that Jones was not only the first black woman mayor of St. Louis, but the first black woman mayor in Missouri.

After Green’s swearing-in, the comptroller thanked God for blessing her with her position. 

“It is truly a privilege to be a public servant,” Green said. She said she stayed honest and kept the city’s financial positive.

“As an elected public official, I have had my share of political wrangling,” Green noted. 

Green said she always tried to leverage tax dollars. She noted that she had worked to protect the airport from privatization. In addition, she said, she’s kept a good credit rating for the city through the downturn around 2008 and through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot take our democracy for granted,” Green added.

In a speech before Green’s swearing-in, Anthony Thompson, chairman and CEO of the Kwame Building Group, praised Green for her integrity. 

“Miss Green has repeatedly been on the right side of fiscal policies,” Thompson said. “She is an example of moral excellence.”

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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