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New Council sworn into office; McCracken now Mayor Pro Tem

Thursday, June 26, 2008 by Mark Richardson

The face of the Austin City Council has changed, as new Council members Laura Morrison and Randi Shade, along with incumbent Lee Leffingwell, were sworn in to office in ceremonies at City Hall last night. Leaving the Council is longtime city employee and Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley and one-term member Jennifer Kim.


Also, Council members unanimously elected Brewster McCracken as Mayor Pro Tem.


An overflow crowd of friends, family and supporters jammed Council chambers for the ceremonies, which only lasted about one-half hour. District Judge Orlinda Naranjo gave the oath of office for incoming Council members.


Each of the three new or re-elected members made comments to the crowd. Leffingwell commented on the difference between running for office the first time and the second.


“Three years ago I sat in this chamber for the first time,” he said. “I felt privileged and honored for the opportunity to represent you, and it feels very much the same way tonight. But it does feel a little different this time. This year, voters had a referendum on my first term. Voters know the record, and they either like it or they don’t like it. And they cast their votes accordingly.”


Leffingwell, an Austin native, said he had seen the city’s population double three times in his lifetime.


Austin is now like the great ‘philosopher’ Yogi Berra, who when asked about his favorite restaurant, said ‘Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,’” he joked. “Well, it’s crowded here in Austin, but people keep coming. The big question is, how do we accommodate that kind of growth in a way so we can retain our quality of life and the essential character of the city?”


Newcomer Shade said a sense of what she has ahead of her began to sink in as she took the oath of office.


“I’ve worked so hard in this community as a volunteer, in public service, and in other jobs,” she said. “But to actually take the oath, I take that very seriously, and I don’t think I was prepared for how emotional it made me feel.”


Morrison joked that her mother was not entirely impressed with her running for just a seat on City Council. “She asked me ‘Why aren’t you running for mayor?” she said. “Let me state here and now that I have no intention to run for mayor.”


Mayor Will Wynn interrupted briefly, saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”


Morrison said that in her work as president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council and in corporate life, she had experience with organizational charts.


“And I am very mindful of the fact that the City of Austin’s organizational chart has the City Council reporting directly to the citizens of Austin,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting to down to work.”


Mayor Wynn noted that this is the sixth Council he will work with in his eight (going on nine) years on the dais.


“I can say that I feel strongly that the future of the city is in very good hands,” Wynn said.


The first full meeting of the New Council will be on July 24.

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