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Council, Mayor sworn in at city hall ceremony

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Mayor Will Wynn convened the special meeting of the city council Monday by saying, “I’m Mayor Will Wynn . . . for the next ten minutes.” 


With nine years on the dais, Wynn got to spend the last few minutes saying farewell. He tipped his rhetorical hat to all the Council Members, Mayors and City Managers he’d worked with, “I learned from each one, and I’m a better person for all of them.” And finished by saying that “serving as Mayor was the honor of my life.”

The rest of Wynn’s last ten minutes were spent being feted by the colleagues who know him so well. Lee Leffingwell said that Mayor Wynn had been “a role model to me, even though we’re close to the same age.” Leffingwell then got serious, saying that Wynn “always made us feel like equals. He made us all part of the process.” Mike Martinez talked about the leadership the Mayor showed in the days after Hurricane Katrina, when Wynn didn’t hesitate to cancel events at the Convention Center, saying that “we’re in a global crisis.” Laura Morrison talked about the “fairness” he brought to the job. Brewster McCracken said that Wynn “prevented factions from forming, and brought the Council together into a cohesive team.” And Sheryl Cole said he had “impeccable character.”


Then the new Council Members and Mayor were sworn in, and Leffingwell took his seat at the center of the dais, grinned and said “I’m Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.” The first and only order of business for the special meeting was to choose a Mayor Pro Tem. Cole nominated Martinez, and the Council unanimously voted to give him that role.


Leffingwell and the new Council Members then took time to give an introductory speech. Leffingwell began by saying he thought that “depth and breadth on this Council is extraordinary.” He said that they were facing “serious problems,” with revenues declining and demand for services staying the same “or even increasing.” But, he said, that this was an “important time to serve, because, as the old saying goes, every challenge is an opportunity in disguise.”


Leffingwell, a former pilot, ended with an extended flight metaphor. “This is the first day of our trip together. There will certainly be some turbulence. We are likely to be re-routed a time or two. But I promise you that we will, finally, arrive safely at our destination.” (Martinez then followed up with a joke of his own: “And on this flight you’ll all be eating peanuts, at least until the economy improves.”)


The rest of the new and re-elected Council also gave short speeches. Council Member Chris Riley spoke about being a kid and thinking where he would want to be born if he could choose anywhere in the world, and concluded he’d still rather be right here in Austin. He said he was “honored and humbled” to be serving on the Council, saying that the people of Austin were the city’s greatest natural resource.


Council Member Bill Spelman, returning to the dais after a nine-year hiatus, hadn’t forgotten what it’s like to serve on the Council. He talked about how it can be hard to get Austinites to agree on “the color of the sky, much less zoning cases or Water Treatment Plant Number Four.” But he said that healthy disagreement was not a bad thing, because Austinites agreed on the big picture, making Austin a great place to live.  He ended by saying, “I hope I don’t make any of you too angry, and if I do, come see me and we’ll talk about it.”


And soon everyone filed into the lobby, where the soaring trumpet lines of Jeff Lofton cut through the chatter, and cake decorated with “City Council 2009” frosting was cut and handed out.

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