Miami Gardens holds swearing-in ceremony at FMU
By Derek Joy
There was an overflow crowd at the Lou Rawls Theater for the Performing Arts at Florida Memorial University FMU).
The occasion was political. Miami Gardens held its swearing in ceremony for Mayor Oliver Gilbert III, Council-woman Lillie Odom (Dist. 1) and Councilman David Williams, Jr. (At-Large Seat).
“What started out as a noble idea is now the third largest city in Miami Dade County,” FMU President Dr. Henry Lewis, said in his opening remarks. “When detractors said it couldn’t be done, more than 100,000 residents worked together and made the City of Miami Gardens a reality.
The city was chartered in 2003. Outgoing Mayor Shirley Gibson was the first and only mayor of this city until term limits ushered her out. Gilbert won the seat by defeating six other candidates in the Aug. 14, Primary Election.
This new look of the City Council is not yet complete. Gone are Gibson, Williams, Councilman Aaron Campbell and Councilman Melvin Bratton, Sr., who lost a bid for the Florida State House of Representatives District 102, to former Councilwoman Sharon Pritchett.
Gilbert, Odom and Williams await the winner of a runoff between Rodney Harris and former Councilman Ulysses “Buck” Harvard, and an eventual appointee to complete the remaining two years of Gilbert’s term, to complete the seven member City Council. Judge Reginald Corlew (15th Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County), who said he has known Odom for more than 30 years, did the swearing in honors for her. Former Miami Dade County Commissioner Betty Ferguson (District 1), a pioneer in the drive that resulted in the City of Miami Gardens, performed the swearing in honors for Williams, while Gibson performed the honor for Gilbert.“First of all, I came here to check out the lighting because, as you know, the lights can be blinding,” said Gilbert. “But it’s not the lights that are blinding me now. It’s all of the love and support you are showing me here tonight. “As hard as it was to become mayor, it’s harder being mayor. It takes me back to Aug. 18, when I was invited to attend a program for youth at Norland United Methodist Church.”
“The enormity of what I had done began to sink in. Children asked questions and I thought about it. I told them the only difference between what I had done and what they can do is time,” added Gilbert. Kirklyn Gilbert, the mayor’s mother was on hand for the occasion. When asked how she feels about her son’s achievements so far, the widowed mother of three (Lisa Gilbert Foots, Mayor Gilbert and Keriene Gilbert) said: “Like any other mother, I’m very proud of him. I pray that God will guide him to do what he wants him to do.”
Meanwhile, Odom, who won her first attempt at public office, is a lifelong resident of Miami Gardens, having graduated from then North Dade High School in 1961, and is currently the school’s alumni association president, has her political interest. “It makes you feel that people care and they recognize the work you do in the community,” said Odom, when asked her thoughts on winning her first election. “I’ve been working in this community for 50 years.”
“My focus will be on increasing economic development, working with small businesses to help them grow and become partners with the city. I’m also very passionate about senior citizens.”
Williams, a pharmaceutical executive, was appointed to the City Council in March 2011, to complete Pritchett’s term. He was re-elected in a Special Election last January, and won unopposed on Aug. 14. His efforts are clear, simple and a continuation of what he has advocated for the past 25 years. “There’s nothing any different than what I’ve done for the last 25 years,” Williams said. “I will continue to work to raise the standard of education. We have 21 elementary schools in Miami Gardens.”
“Why should we have to go outside our community for top flight science and engineering programs for our children?” “We started a science and engineering program and we want to build on it.” While some in the audience disagreed with Gilbert being the lone speaker of the three who were sworn into office, he enumerated some lofty goals and considered the reality. Gilbert wants to add more police officers, create a community/economic re-development agency and build a bigger, better and safer city.
“We need to plant faith and harvest hope,” said Gilbert. “I expect us to disagree. But we don’t have to be disagreeable. We won’t fight. It is an us and a we. We are Miami Gardens. One Miami Gardens, good, bad or ugly, we are together.”