The City of Gainesville held a ceremony Thursday to swear in two new city commissioners.
Commissioner Gail Johnson, voted into power during the March elections, will serve as commissioner at large. Commissioner Gigi Simmons, elected in a runoff election on May 1, will serve District 1. Both commissioners will serve three-year terms.
It is the first time the city will have two African American women on the commission and a minority-majority of commission members.
“This is the outward sign of progress and it’s a day to celebrate and be joyful,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said.
Johnson was joined by her daughter, Zora, as she took oath. She thanked her supporters, campaign managers, interns, friends, daughter and grandmother. Her grandmother passed away a month ago, but Johnson still held a seat for her in the front.
Johnson emphasized that she is a city commissioner today because of the influential women in history before her.
“I stand on the shoulders of those who have become before us. That have done the important work of advocating for inclusion, equality and justice. Those whose footsteps we follow in,” Johnson said.
Johnson promised the audience to do three things during her time as commissioner and asked they do the same for her.
“One, I’m going to listen,” Johnson said. “Two, I’m going to show up. And three, I’m going to be a champion for the change that you all want to see.”
Simmons was joined by her two sons, Sterling and Nicholas, as she took her oath. She thanked Jesus; her mentor of 20 years; her campaign team; her mother; her sons and her late grandmother.
She said her mother, a single parent, taught her the value of work ethic, and her sons are her inspiration. Simmons said that today’s historic moment is something we can all be proud of.
She shared a story of personal experience from just a year ago with the audience.
“I am proud to say that I was staff, and I was greeting our current commissioners,” Simmons said. “I was a greeter at the front door a year ago today.”
She said that she wants to use her platform to inspire those who feel they cannot make it.
“We can no longer turn a blind eye to the inequities that shamefully exist in this city,” Simmons said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done but I am a true believer that if we work together side-by-side and hand-in-hand that we can achieve great things.”
Follow Sloan Savage on Twitter @sloanasavage and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gail Johnson (center right) is sworn into office alongside her daughter Zora (center left).