From his war room above West Street, Mayor Gavin Buckley talked earlier Monday about whether it’s sunken in — that a guy with a funny accent and a waiter gig could grow up to become mayor of his adopted hometown.
Maybe it’s sunk in now.
Buckley took the oath to “diligently and faithfully, without partiality or prejudice, execute the office of mayor” on the same street where he started his businesses almost 20 years ago.
“This is the highlight of my life besides meeting my wife and having kids,” he said before his swearing-in. “It’s going to be pretty surreal.”
The 137th mayor of Annapolis couldn’t help cracking a joke before completing his first act as mayor, swearing in the new Annapolis City Council. Buckley, who couldn’t find his glasses, told the crowd he was borrowing Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson’s.
The ceremonies were a lighthearted affair, succeeding an inaugural parade — the first of its kind in recent memory. Police and fire honor guards led the march of newly elected leaders, bands and dance troupes. Buckley, his wife Jules and his two sons Dash and Miles, strolled up the brick-paved street as the hundred or so gathered cheered and waved.
After the parade, the newly-elected City Council members and political figures joined Buckley on a stage in front of St. Anne’s Church at the mouth of West Street.
Local activist William Rowel emceed the proceedings. Seated onstage behind Buckley were his mother and mother-in-law as well as wife and sons. County executive Steve Schuh, House Speaker Michael Busch, comptroller Peter Franchot and former mayors. Paul Adler, part of the Australian trade commission, represented the new mayor’s homeland.
Schuh, Busch, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Congressman John Sarbanes spoke. The officials congratulated the council on their past and future service and spoke of cooperation between their respective offices to make Annapolis better.
And then, Buckley raised his right hand and recited the words that would officially entrust him with the city. He was jocular onstage, asking the audience to bear with him.
“I’ve never done this before,” he said. “Get used to it!” someone in the crowd answered.
Marilyn and Gary Thompson, 25-year Annapolis residents, said they attended the inauguration because they were the kind of residents Buckley described in his speech — enamored with Annapolis at first, but increasingly disillusioned with their government.
“He’s given that back to us,” Marilyn Thompson said of their love for the city. The Thompsons hope Buckley can reinvigorate the Market House and keep his promise to build a more inclusive city.
“Take what he’s done for West Street,” Gary Thompson said. “It’s the sense of excitement and community involvement.”
In his speech, Buckley thanked his family, his campaign team and former mayor Mike Pantelides. He said his priorities are the economy, environment and community.
He wants to replicate the revitalization of West Street elsewhere in the city, strengthen ties with the Naval Academy and St. John’s College and highlight the city’s musical history with Annapolis’ own signature music festival.
Buckley said the city should be leaders in green technology, invest in cleaning up the water by making the city’s creeks full no-discharge zones and connect bike paths.
Buckley laid out an administration focused on inclusivity and forward thinking. Behind Buckley hung a poster portrait of Ben Franklin painted by artist Jeff Huntington and local students. Behind the crowd, Huntington’s controversial screaming-nurse and Buddha mural glinted in the setting sun.
“We should embrace history,” he said, “but not get stuck in it."
He ended his speech with a well-worn campaign anecdote about his wife, Jules. The two were just starting out on their Annapolis adventure, and Buckley had opened his first business, The Moon coffee shop. Jules gave him a card with a version of an Oscar Wilde quote: “Yes, I am a dreamer, for a dreamer makes his way by moonlight and sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Standing onstage at his inauguration, Buckley asked the crowd to dream with him, and help make the city “one Annapolis.”