At inauguration, Rushern Baker sees 'chance to get it right' in Prince George's

Leslie Johnson, who is charged with witness tampering and destruction of evidence, takes the oath of office as a member of the Prince George's County Council.
By Miranda S. Spivack, Michael DeBonis and Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 6, 2010; 7:18 PM

Rushern L. Baker III was officially sworn in as Prince George's County executive to the cheers of several hundred people who turned out for his inauguration ceremony Monday in Upper Marlboro.

"Yes, we are on the path to greatness, but we need a shift in our thinking," Baker (D), the county's seventh executive, told the gathering. "We will prevail."

According to Baker's office, one of his first acts was to fire county Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton and Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Eugene A. Jones.

Also sworn in Monday were new council members, including Leslie Johnson. With her husband, outgoing County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), at her side, she swore to uphold the state and federal constitutions and the county charter. There were cheers and loud applause from many in the audience in Upper Marlboro, which included D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) and D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8).

The Johnsons were arrested Nov. 12 on charges of tampering and destruction of evidence as part of a federal corruption probe. As Jack Johnson left the podium, he exchanged waves with Barry.

After leaving the stage, Johnson said he is proud of the condition in which he left the county.

"Prince George's is in wonderful shape, considering the economy," he said. He noted the strides made on Wall Street and with major economic-development projects.

He said Baker should be able to continue to move forward on some of his efforts.

"I'm just pleased that Rushern Baker has ascended to the opportunity to serve," Johnson said.

He would not comment on his arrest or his wife's decision to take office despite her arrest.

"This is a day of celebration," he said.

A prayerful start

Baker began his first day as Prince George's executive with a prayer service at his home church in Cheverly.

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