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

By Michael DeBonis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010; 1:15 PM

Rushern L. Baker III has been 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 cheering gathering. "We will prevail."

Also sworn in Monday were new council members, including Leslie Johnson. With her husband, outgoing County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) at her side, Leslie Johnson 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 an ongoing federal corruption probe. As Jack Johnson left the podium, he exchanged waves with Barry (D-Ward 8).

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

At Cheverly United Methodist Church, Baker and family were joined by about 150 people to hear scripture readings and "words of inspiration" from interfaith clergy from across the county.

Themes of change and allusions to Baker's "path to greatness" campaign message were spread throughout the 90-minute service.

None of the half-dozen speakers spoke explicitly about the arrest last month of outgoing Johnson and his wife. Several hinted at it, however.

"Both you and I are leaders in institutions that have lost the public trust," the Rev. Kevin Carlin Kennedy, pastor of Cheverly's St. Ambrose Catholic Church, told Baker. "All of us must hold a common commitment to work selflessly for those who we serve. Let us go forward and make a commitment that we will be people of integrity, worthy of the people's trust."

During the invocation, the Rev. Sheila N. McJilton of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Laurel prayed that God would lead the incoming elected officials.

"Guide them in your ways of justice, honesty and integrity," she said, invoking the corruption troubles facing the county.

Several attendees refused to speak publicly about Leslie Johnson's decision to take the oath of office or the impact on the county moving forward.

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