Well, not quite as auspicious as all that, perhaps, but for the 200 or so people who crowded into the council chambers to bid adieu to outbound members Montelongo and Jacobs, to congratulate the returning incumbents, Turner, Spain, and Sandberg, and to welcome the newest members, Weaver and Akeson, it must have felt like the podium was smack dab in the middle of D.C. From the moment I walked in, you could tell the air was charged with anticipation. Several occasional visitors to the council chambers we present for the ceremony, and while I will invariably forget to mention someone, I will mention "Mitch" Mitchell, president of the East Bluff United Neighborhood Association, Don Cummings, a resident of the East Bluff and prominent member of American Legion Post #2, as well as many friends and family of the newly elected council members. I sat with several of the East Bluff ladies, and noticed our old friend Savino Sierra was there as well.
The council convened and the business was handled in quick order. City Counsel Ray verified that all incoming council members were eligible to be seated, and this was verified by the City Treasurer. The consent agenda was quickly passed, and Savino was given the opportunity to speak, and did so eloquently and briefly, congratulating the winners, and making a special comment about how happy he was to see Councilman Jacobs recovering.
There was no executive session, and Mayor Ardis quickly moved on to the presentation of thanks and praises to the outgoing members, Montelongo and Jacobs. Montelongo received his parting gift from the council without remarks, and since Jacobs was unable to get to the podium, his son George Jr. accepted his gift for him. Upon the conclusion of Mayor Ardis' remarks concerning Councilman Jacobs' service, he received a standing ovation, the first of several to come.
Next, after a proclamation by Mayor Ardis for both Montelongo and Jacobs, Montelongo gave a speech, a humble and gracious speech, extolling the honor of service and his pleasure to serve the community. Standing ovation again.
Next the 6th grade son of Jacobs, Jake, read a speech prepared by his father, and you could see the pride and humility in Jacobs' eyes as the young boy eloquently and passionately delivered his father's words. Standing ovation.
Next the members of the council, in turn, beginning with W. Eric Turner and working clockwise around the horseshoe, gave their words of thanks to both Montelongo and Jacobs, with the exception of Barbara Van Auken, who declined to speak for fear of becoming too emotional. After all had spoken, Mayor Ardis tendered his comments with passion for the service of these fine individuals. Having closed his comments, the meeting was adjourned.
While the room was reorganized, several people exited the chamber to tender their personal thanks to both Montelongo and Jacobs. I stepped out for a moment and greeted Chuck Weaver and several others, asked John Sharp how his shorthand was going (he also was armed with pad and pen for the event...there are a few of us old timers around), and headed back in to get my seat for the ceremonies.
Mary Haynes, the longest incumbent City Clerk in Peoria, presided over the swearing in. Her words were kind, soft, and enthralling. She spoke with sober tones to the At Large Council Members who were about to be sworn in, telling them that while they had been elected, the seats did not belong to them. They belong to the citizens of Peoria, and they are there to serve those people, and not themselves. The new Council Members were sworn in individually, in alphabetical order, and then seated around the horseshoe. Mayor Ardis convened the council, and asked that all stand while Pastor Cal from the Northwoods Church delivered an invocation. A special session convened and each member of the council was given the opportunity to welcome the returning members and the new officials to the horseshoe. At the close of those remarks, both Beth Akeson and Chuck Weaver gave short prepared speeches thanking the many people who helped them win their seats. Pastor Cal closed with a benediction and the meeting was adjourned.
In the hallway, treats and punch were served, people milled about and congratulated the council members. Smiles and handshakes all around. And people went off to their respective parties or homes.
Just another night in Peoria. But maybe a new beginning. I hope so, I know we could use one.