Johnson takes oath of office

Published 9:14 pm Monday, January 5, 2009

With her right hand held high and trembling a bit during a historic City Hall ceremony, Mayor Linda Johnson vowed on Monday to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the commonwealth of Virginia and to serve the citizens of Suffolk.

Suffolk’s first directly elected mayor was one of four elected representatives to take the oath of office during the special investiture ceremony Monday afternoon. All four won their elections in November.

Also taking the oath of office were two returning members of City Council and one newly elected member.

Email newsletter signup

Johnson told a standing-room-only crowd in the City Council chambers that she intends to let “respect, fairness and integrity” be the guideposts of her term as mayor.

“I plan to make you proud,” she added.

Johnson won the city’s first direct mayoral election in November with 36 percent of the vote. She was one of seven candidates running for the office.

Johnson already had served one term as mayor, having been chosen by the rest of the City Council for that position while she served as the council member representing the Sleepy Hole Borough.

“We do have our destiny in our own hands,” she told the crowd. “Smart government is the way to achieve it.”

In his remarks as the guest speaker during Monday’s ceremony, Del. Chris Jones, who served on the City Council two decades ago, said direct election of the mayor was something council members had long wanted.

“Y’all did right by sending a request to Richmond for a charter change” that would allow the direct mayoral elections, he told City Council members.

He said he was pleased that it was Johnson who would fill that role for the first time.

Noting that he has known her since the 1970s and found her to have “an unwavering commitment to her constituents, Jones said, “She does what she thinks is the right thing to do — let the cards fall where they may.”

Taking the oath of office for the first time was Sleepy Hole Borough Councilman Robert Barclay IV, who was elected to fill the seat that Johnson vacated. He told the audience that he hopes he can live up to their support and the “history of leadership” displayed on the council.

Also sworn in during the ceremony were Nansemond Borough Councilman Leroy Bennett and Whaleyville Borough Councilman Curtis R. Milteer Sr., who was later chosen by the council to continue his role as Suffolk’s vice mayor.

Milteer, whom Jones referred to as the “senior member” of Suffolk City Council, has served on the city’s governing body for more than 20 years. Jones called him “the epitome of a true public servant.”

Milteer said Suffolk residents had expressed a “vote of confidence” by returning all of the incumbents who were running for office.

Jones also had praise for Bennett.

“He’s a man of his word and someone I’ve enjoyed working with,” Jones said.

“I don’t have an agenda,” Bennett told those gathered in the council chambers. “You are my agenda.

In a separate ceremony Monday morning, School Board members Thelma V. Hinton, Diane B. Foster and Phyllis Collier Byrum all were sworn into office, following their election to the seats in November.

The School Board also reinstalled Lorraine Skeeter as chairwoman and selected William Whitley as vice-chairman.