Fenty Sworn in as D.C.'s Mayor

By David Nakamura and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Adrian M. Fenty, the self-proclaimed populist who campaigned in every city neighborhood and who received 89 percent of the vote on Election Day, was sworn in as mayor of the District of Columbia yesterday in a modest ceremony before fewer than 50 observers.

His wife, Michelle, held the Bible on which Fenty rested his hand as he took the oath of office from Chief Judge Eric T. Washington in the chambers of the D.C. Court of Appeals. He brought along only three guests: his parents, Phil and Jan Fenty; and his mother-in-law, Annette Cross.

Fenty's big celebration would have to wait.

On a national day of mourning for Gerald R. Ford, Fenty was determined to keep the ceremony low-key out of respect for the former president. The ceremony was closed to the public, and Fenty even asked his staff to stay away. Moments after taking the oath of office, he left the courthouse to attend funeral services for Ford -- not even pausing to speak to the handful of reporters who had witnessed the swearing-in ceremony.

"Most of the day was focused on the memory of President Ford," Fenty said later in a brief interview. "In general, I'm very appreciative of the support and trust the residents of the District of Columbia have placed in me."

At yesterday's ceremony, Fenty and D.C. Council members, including the new chairman, Vincent C. Gray (D), took the oath of office within minutes. Most of the observers were relatives of council members.

The public ceremony will be held today for Fenty and Gray; three new council members, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6); and three reelected members, David A. Catania (I-At Large), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

The festivities are to begin with a prayer breakfast at 7 a.m. at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and continue with the ceremonial swearing-in at 10 a.m. at the Washington Convention Center. On Saturday, Fenty will play host to an inaugural ball for up to 15,000 residents at the Convention Center.

Fenty, the fifth mayor elected under home rule, has pledged to pursue an ambitious agenda right from the start of his four-year term, including plans to take control of the D.C. school system and to overhaul the city's police force.

At yesterday's swearing-in, however, there was no talk of those goals as Fenty and the council members began assembling at the courthouse shortly before 8 a.m. Courthouse security guards were so rigorous that they temporarily barred even family members from entering.

Gray's adult daughter, Jonice Gray Tucker, pleaded with guards to let her pass.

"I'm his daughter," she said, before Dawn Slonneger, Gray's chief of staff, persuaded security to allow Tucker to join the others.

For refreshments, pastries, coffee and juice were provided in a small room outside the courtroom. Most of the council members followed Fenty's lead in bringing a small number of witnesses to the ceremony. Television cameras and newspaper photographers were prohibited.

The only member with more than a few guests was Thomas, who brought 20 people, mostly family, and arrived 20 minutes late.

"For me, a moment like this, I had to have my people with me," he said. "There was no way I was not going to include them."

Before the swearing in, Thomas held a memorial service at his father's grave at Fort Lincoln Cemetery. Harry Thomas Sr., who died in 1999, had held the Ward 5 seat for 12 years. In his father's memory, Thomas gave each of the council members a crystal memento that pictured the Last Supper.

The ceremony began about 8:25 a.m. Ten minutes later, it was over.

"Congratulations and good luck," the judge said to Fenty.

"See you tomorrow," Fenty replied, eliciting a laugh from onlookers.

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