Houston Mayor John Whitmire has been in office for less than a week and if his first week is any indication of how his first term will go, his administration will be an active one.
Whitmire was sworn in during a private ceremony at midnight on January 1, a day before Tuesday’s traditional public inauguration of the mayor, controller, and city council. Immediately after the ceremony, Whitmire left with Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner to do an overnight ride along through some of the city’s neighborhoods.
His top priority throughout his campaign was public safety, so it was fitting that his first act as mayor was a ride along. It’s a theme that he has reinforced his support for in the time since his election and in his inaugural address. He also announced that before the end of the week he would convene the various law enforcement agencies in the county to determine if and how they can more effectively collaborate, rather than duplicate services.
On January 2, Whitmire, Controller Chris Hollins, and the city’s sixteen city council members were sworn in in a public ceremony at downtown’s Wortham Theater Center. His speech, again, highlighted his commitment to public safety but also acknowledged other priority issues like infrastructure and flooding, the city’s finances, and quality of life challenges like trash pickup.
The inauguration, as has always been done, was followed by a special called session of the city council to nominate and elect Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex Tatum and Vice Mayor Pro Tem Amy Peck. Whitmire committed to hosting an afternoon meet and greet in the rotunda of city hall following the special session, saying he would open the doors and allow any citizen who wanted to come and speak to him the opportunity, and he did just that.
During his inaugural address at Wortham, Whitmire announced that he had scheduled to begin talks with the Houston Professional FireFighters Association the following day, to finally bring an end to a nearly 8-year-long contract dispute between the city and the city’s primary firefighter union.
Immediately following that meeting, the union and administration issued a joint statement announcing the mayor’s intent to drop pending legal action against the association.
“Within the first five minutes of the discussion, Mayor Whitmire directed City Attorney Arturo Michel to withdraw the appeal of the City’s challenge to the court’s consideration of past fiscal years 2018 through 2024 back pay. This begins the process of ending his predecessor’s long-running court fight over fair pay and benefits for Houston firefighters,” read the statement.
Still in its early days, Whitmire’s administration hasn’t announced city council committees or chairs, division and department heads, and how it plans to address the city budget’s structural imbalance as the end of the fiscal year quickly approaches.
However, by addressing some of the most pressing issues left pending by former Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration, it’s clear that the Whitmire administration isn’t going to shy away from tackling hard problems early on.