ANNAPOLIS, MD — Incumbent Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and eight other aldermen were sworn in Monday to four-year terms. Buckley and his newly-elected colleagues will lead an all-Democratic City Council as the town looks to tackle climate resiliency, fair housing and pandemic recovery during the mayor’s second term.
The leaders celebrated with a public ceremony in downtown Annapolis. Marching bands and military drill teams paraded down West Street before a ceremony that drew a few hundred people. Buckley then took the oath of office and swore in:
- Ward 1: Incumbent Eleanor Tierney
- Ward 2: Newcomer Karma O’Neill (Replacing Republican Alderman Fred Paone, who is retiring)
- Ward 3: Incumbent Rhonda Pindell Charles
- Ward 4: Incumbent Sheila Finlayson
- Ward 5: Incumbent Brooks Schandelmeier (Serving his first full term after he was appointed mid-way through the last City Council cycle)
- Ward 6: Incumbent DaJuan Gay (Serving his first full term after he won a special election mid-way through the last City Council cycle)
- Ward 7: Incumbent Rob Savidge
- Ward 8: Incumbent Ross Arnett
In his inaugural address, Buckley said some of his biggest first-term accomplishments were fortifying City Dock to combat climate change and opening a new Pool at Truxton Park. He also applauded groundbreakings on a Department of Public Works facility and the Newtowne 20 public housing complex.
Though Buckley welcomed this progress, he also remembered the tragedies of his first term. The mayor reflected on the Capital Gazette shooting, the Tropical Depression Ida tornado and the coronavirus pandemic.
“There was no playbook for this in the modern era,” Buckley said in his speech. “Some days, it was like building the plane well after takeoff, but because we had the right people in the right jobs, the City of Annapolis navigated the worst of the crisis.”
The immigrant restaurateur was born in South Africa and raised in Australia. Buckley moved to Annapolis in 1992 with $200 in his pocket. He eventually opened these West Street eateries: Lemongrass, Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge, Sailor Oyster Bar and Tsunami.
That new parking structure will be part of a $56 million effort to floodproof Annapolis and battle rising sea levels. This vision is called “Reimagining City Dock.” It is slated to be the biggest infrastructure project in the town’s history, and it could require taking on substantial debt.
Buckley also wants to electrify the city’s fleet of work vehicles. He similarly aspires to add an electric ferry to the city’s green transportation portfolio.
“I look forward to tiring you all out with ribbon-cuttings week after week after week,” the 137th mayor said.
Several dignitaries supported Buckley’s vision for a greener and more inclusive Annapolis. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, cheered Buckley’s policies to recover from the pandemic.
Cardin visited downtown Annapolis on Small Business Saturday with Buckley and other local officials. He was encouraged to see stores filled after struggling to make ends meet for so long.
“It was so exciting just to see the traffic on Main Street,” Cardin said. “It was a cold day, but our reception couldn’t have been warmer, and that’s a reflection of Mayor Buckley’s leadership.”
Many ceremonial speakers touted the state capital’s history, but they also acknowledged that Annapolis is an evolving town.
With new construction projects and frequent conservation pushes, leaders often have to juggle the city’s future growth with its storied past.
“Mayor Buckley and this City Council understand Annapolis,” said John Sarbanes (D), the U.S. representative for Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. “They bring that kind of instinctive feel for how the city can move forward, balancing the old and the new.
Most of the honorary attendees were Democrats, but one Republican also welcomed Buckley’s win. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) dubbed Buckley as a community-oriented man who understands the city’s roots.
Rutherford reminded guests that leadership like this requires bipartisan cooperation.
“As Gov. [Larry] Hogan and I have demonstrated over the last seven years in office, it is possible to cast aside partisanship to take up common sense and compromise,” Rutherford said.
Racial justice advocate Carl Snowden echoed the importance of voting while also calling for police accountability.
Snowden alluded to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. He was much prouder of Monday’s community event than that threat to democracy earlier this year.
“Something happened 11 months ago, something we should never forget,” the Annapolis native said. “Today we are going to witness the transferring of power as new council members come in. I do not take that lightly. I know the importance of a democracy.”
The City Council has a long to-do list. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) said Buckley is the man for the job because of his “beliefs, values and a passion for justice that keeps us on course through pandemic, tornado, storms and political chaos.”
Residents gave Buckley a standing ovation when he took the podium. They clapped when he mentioned major construction initiatives, and they seemed equally pleased with his goals surrounding equity.
One attendee, Orlie Reid, has been a fan of Buckley for years. Reid closely followed the mayor’s first term, though he lives in Hillsmere outside the city limits.
“I was impressed,” the retired psychotherapist told Patch. “The guy really is sincere about what he’s doing, and I wouldn’t be supporting him if he wasn’t.”
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