In the invocation before the swearing in of three Gainesville City Commissioners on May 21st, Father David Ruchinski asked that God, “Inspire and direct the deliberations of this council and in particular its newest member,” and that the council, “Protect and steward the natural beauty of our city and our county.”
He continued by asking God to, “Guide this council to seek always the freedom and the good of all members of our community, especially the most vulnerable.
“Let us always be a people committed to truth, beauty and goodness,” he said.
Judge Gloria R. Walker then asked Harvey Ward, Reina Saco and David Arreola to raise their right hands and recite the oath of office, one at a time, from the comfort of their homes and surrounded by family members.
They all agreed to “faithfully perform the duties of city commissioner,” and to “uphold the constitution of the United States, State of Florida and under the charter of the City of Gainesville.”
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said to the newly sworn commissioners, “Congratulations to all three of you.”
Each commissioner then spoke to fellow commissioners, the general public watching the ceremony and to their constituents who supported them on the way.
Harvey Ward said, “Welcome to our living room,” and noted that he never expected to give a speech while standing in front of his own fireplace.
“Not the staying at home, not the social distancing, not the masks, is anything that any of us wanted,” he said.
“I want to hug a bunch of people afterwards and shake all the hands and stroll back to City Hall to get knee deep in the minutia of the people’s business,” he continued. “But, as a wise man once sang, you can’t always get what you want.
“I often lay awake at night,” Ward said. “Especially during this crisis,wondering if I have done the right thing that day for our city.”
Ward expressed the challenges of knowing about climate change and the growing population living in poverty and wanting to be part of the solution.
“I will try every single day to make this city that we share better for you and for all of us,” he said.
“I’m reminded that while you can’t always get what you want, if try you try sometimes, you might find… you get what you need.”
Ward said he is sure the community will persevere. “We have been through tougher times,” he said. “And come out better as a nation, and we have it in us to do so again.”
New Commissioner Reina Saco said that Judge Walker had served as her supervisor and being sworn in by Walker was a full circle moment.
“A year ago, I did not think I would find myself exactly here,” she said. “I didn’t think we’d be in the middle of a pandemic, I certainly didn’t think I’d be in my parents’ living room, I didn’t think I’d be doing this to a semi-faceless audience on the internet.
“We don’t get more than we can handle,” Saco said about the trying times that the pandemic has caused. “I like to think that being elected at this time means that I can live up to this challenge.
“I’m lucky to be working with people I already know. People I respect and adore.
“There was a community that constantly surrounded me from the moment I arrived in Gainesville and made it feel like home,” she said. “And it was wonderful, strong, compassionate people who taught me that it was okay to love people, love public service and to want to help. You don’t really hear that in law school. In law school they tell you to go corporate and make bank.
Saco promised to “use her talent to help.”
“I am more than happy, willing and able to take on the challenges of our city governance all of the different needs of different community members,” Saco pledged.
“But I’m especially excited to show all of the people who supported me , who believed in me, who saw this and said I want her to be my next city commissioner.
“I am beyond humbled,” she said about taking on a 4.5 year term.
Commissioner David Arreola had to run and grab a bible before he took his oath and wore a face mask as he raised his right hand and repeated the oath speaking from City Hall.
“I want to thank people for helping me get here,” he said.
“Much of what our work has been centered around the last couple of months is protecting people, getting information out,” he said.
Arreola thanked his mother who is visiting from Mexico and his campaign team.
And he said there was a “Degree of gratitude and sorrow,” serving during a pandemic.
“The uncertain future is not just for Gainesville,” he said. “But for our entire world.
“At this time, it would really be helpful for us to take stock and appreciate all that we have because we have lost so much,” he said mentioning loved ones who have died from COVID-19, businesses that have closed and people who have lost their careers.
Arreola said he sees his position as a chance to help protect health, safety, jobs, integrating campus into the city and working with county.
“The biggest challenge is not going to be our city,” he said. “It will be one of the individual resident.”
He said 15 percent of Gainesville residents come from another country and that, “The most important thing we have is our humanity.
“We must continue to have hard discussions, “he said and not be afraid to disagree.
“The last three years have been trying,” he said because he joined as a younger member but has always been welcomed.
“The experience, the passion, the knowledge and wisdom combined on this commission and within the staff members of our government have taught me a lot.”
When working with the county and other entities he said, “We can choose to be one another’s thorn in the side or one another’s shoulder to rest on.”
He addressed the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on Gainesville
“The essence of America is that we do have concern for one another,” he said. “The pandemic has tested that.”
He then read the same poem Ulysses that he did at his first swearing in ceremony.
All three commissioners received a round of applause from their Zoom colleagues.
Mayor Poe reminded them that every elected official from small to national government takes the same oath.
“All three of you are eminently qualified to uphold that oath,” he said, “as you show up for work every day.”