For the first time in Gainesville's history, city commissioners took their oath of office virtually Thursday afternoon.
Newly elected Commissioner Reina Saco and reelected Commissioners Harvey Ward and David Arreola were at the Zoom swearing-in. The oaths of office were conducted by Circuit Court Judge Gloria Walker.
The three commissioners were successful in the city’s March 17 election. Saco won the commission’s At-Large seat, Ward retained his District 2 seat, which represents the north parts of the city, and Arreola retained his District 3 seat, which represents the southwest parts of the city.
Saco was the first to be sworn in. She took her oath of office in her parent’s living room, which featured an American flag centered over the window behind her. She placed a hand on a Bible supported by her mother and father.
After her oath, she said circumstances weren’t what she thought they would be a few months ago.
“I didn’t think we would be in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “I certainly didn't think I would be in my parent’s living room.”
Ward wore a tie decorated with small silhouettes of Florida when he took his oath in his home joined by his wife and three daughters. His wife held up a Bible while he took his oath.
“I never had any expectation that I would make any kind of speech standing in front of my fireplace,” he said.
Near the end of his speech, Ward held up his grandfather’s palm-sized bust of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He said he will bring the bust with him to city hall when COVID-19 is over.
“I expect his piercing gaze to remind me and all of us, at every meeting, that we have been through tougher times and come out better as a nation, and that we have it in us to do so again,” he said.
Arreola, the last to be sworn in, was in the city hall meeting room sitting in Mayor Lauren Poe’s seat. The American and Florida flags were behind him as he spoke to about 1,600 residents who watched the event on Facebook. He later reflected on how COVID-19 has impacted Gainesville and the world.
“People have lost loved ones, people have lost businesses and careers that they have spent their entire lives building,” he said. “We have to be grateful for what we have.”
He asked the community to work together to get through the pandemic.
“The most important thing we have is our humanity,” he said. “That one thing that we cannot lose.”