Annise Parker officially began her third and final two-year term as Houston’s mayor Thursday, reiterating many earlier promises in her inaugural speech and swearing in City Council members at a ceremony in a crowded Wortham Center.
The hour-long celebration featured orchestral, choral and operatic performances, as well as a reading by Houston’s first poet laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda, and prayers by pastors Juanita Rasmus and Mia Wright. Speakers generally called for unity amid diversity and perseverance amid struggle.
Houston Grand Opera Studio’s Reginald Smith Jr. sang “Climb Every Mountain” and Parker transitioned into her inaugural address with a light-hearted warning to the 16 members of the City Council, six of whom are new.
“That song was a hint. We’re not slowing down,” Parker said.
In her speech, Parker called for coastal hurricane protections and, again, an end to chronic homelessness. She drew applause for saying “real progress” in street and drainage improvements will soon be visible and for promising to pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Each time I have stood before you, I asked for your prayers. I asked for your patience and I asked for your perseverance,” Parker said. “I ask this again for all of us who serve you as your city workforce.”
She also called for Houstonians to salute the city’s 21,000 workers and continue prayers for the firefighters and families still recovering from the fatal May fire that killed four and injured more.
After imploring the audience to “join me as we create the future of Houston,” Parker thanked the audience and exited stage left, leading a line of council members out of the Wortham Center to City Hall for the year’s first meeting.