CLEVELAND — For the first time in almost 16 years, the city of Cleveland inaugurated a new mayor.
Justin Bibb was ceremonially sworn in by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart as Cleveland’s 58th mayor on Saturday in front of a crowd of family, friends and members of the media.
Bibb started work on Monday, after being formally sworn in just after midnight on Jan. 3 at Cleveland’s East 131st Street library branch.
His mother, Charlene Nichols, held the Bible while he took the oath of office from Judge Michael L. Nelson, Sr.
Due to COVID-19, the event was not open to the public.
The Bibb campaign said 1,200 people had registered before the event switched from in-person to online. The city’s first millennial mayor replaced Frank Jackson, whose fourth and final term ended Sunday night.
In his address to the crowd, Bibb thanked his campaign team and a number of Cleveland residents by name who voiced their concerns to him.
He also laid out a number of initiatives his administration plans to achieve including, a modernization of City Hall, addressing violent crime, the ongoing pandemic and improving access to healthcare.
“We can achieve a safer, more equitable, healthier Cleveland,” he said. “We can be the Cleveland that young people move back to because there are good jobs, safe streets, good schools, quality grocery stores, good healthcare. We don’t just have to dream about that Cleveland, we can and will work toward that goal every minute of every single day.”
Much of his first week in office has been spent adjusting to City Hall and showing support for the police force after the killing of Cleveland Police Officer Shane Bartek.
“And my heart goes out to the family of Officer Shane Bartek and the countless other Clevelanders who’ve lost their lives due to violence. Too many dreams have been deferred and we must act now,” he said.
One way Bibb plans to act on that support is to boost police pay and provide them with updated technology.
“That’s why we must fight for safer streets by working to pay our officers more and give them the tools and technology to keep our neighborhoods secure,” Bibb said. “That’s why the fight for accountable policing must go on.”
Bibb will replace many of Jackson’s appointments, but he did choose to keep Karrie Howard as the safety director. Howard will continue to oversee police, fire and EMS.
As the state of Ohio surpassed 30,000 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, Bibb thanked the residents who have been vaccinated.
“Thank you to all of you who got vaccinated, helped your neighbors get vaccinated. And remember to wear your mask and do what you can to protect the most vulnerable among us,” he said.”
On Thursday, he announced the creation of a COVID-19 task force that will consist of at least 22 representatives responsible for monitoring the spread of the virus, offering policy advice to deal with the virus and helping to get residents vaccinated.
Bibb said his dream of becoming mayor started at 17 years old. Now at 34, he said he was overwhelmed with emotion after stepping into City Hall for the first time as its new leader.
“Walking into City Hall on Monday, I walked into the footsteps of iconic leaders like Carl Stokes and Michael R. White. I followed the longest-serving mayor in Cleveland history, Frank G. Jackson and the magnitude of that moment just five days ago truly moved me,” he said.
A presentation of colors by the Cleveland Division of Police Honor Guard kicked off the event followed by the pledge of allegiance, an opening prayer from Reverend Dr. Jawanza Calvin from the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, the singing of the National Anthem by Cleveland Municipal School District All-City Arts student Kendall Skillern and Cleveland gospel singer Tina Farmer’s performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown, a Democrat for Ohio’s 11th District, spoke before Bibb took the podium.
She reflected on meeting the mayor on a trip to Israel in 2018. Brown expressed excitement for their continued partnership from her position at the nation’s capital.
“I know he will do whatever it takes to chart a better course for tomorrow,” Brown said.
Cuyahoga County poet laureate Honey Bell-Bey followed Mayor Bibb’s inaugural address with a spoken word poem alongside a group of boys from The Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word.
The festivities concluded with a video by Amanda King of Shooting Without Bullets and Nick Pecko featuring local artists.
Saturday's ceremony wrapped up with Dr. Larry Howard's benediction.
Bibb is set to announce a number of cabinet picks in the coming weeks. One of which includes a new cabinet-level position to focus on youth and family success, as well as a “children’s cabinet” created to support Cleveland’s youth from infancy through early adulthood.