Baton Rouge swears in its first black female mayor

Courtesy of Louisiana State Senate

Courtesy of Louisiana State Senate

Baton Rouge, a city whose previous year was marked by bloodshed, racial tension and tragic flooding, welcomed its first black female mayor-president, Sharon Weston Broome, on Jan. 2.

Broome was a former Louisiana State Senator for District 15, the first black woman in that position, which she held from 2004-16. Before entering politics, she was a reporter for WBRZ television in Baton Rouge. Broome led the November primary with 31.6 percent of the vote and was elected mayor-president following a tight run-off race against Republican Senator Bodi White on Dec. 10.

The night of the election, Broome made it clear that Baton Rouge is ready to move forward.

“Tonight, Baton Rouge made a statement, a statement that we are a city of inclusion,” Broome said. “This is an opportunity to rise from the ashes of the past six months and write a new chapter, a new chapter that we can all be proud of.”

Following election night, Broome assembled a transition team consisting of more than 40 citizen volunteers whose jobs were to both prepare for her inauguration and assess the current status of several departments within the city. Their efforts culminated on Jan. 2 at River Center Theater for the Performing Arts when Broome was sworn into office and delivered her inaugural address, announcing her plans to rectify the many issues the city faces.

Broome announced her plans to implement solutions for traffic, public transportation, education and jobs in Baton Rouge, but she expressed special concern for the improvement of race relations throughout the city.

“Please hear me when I say to you that my statements about unifying the parish were not just campaign rhetoric,” Broome said in her address. “I want to be clear that I will be an active opponent to any and all efforts, actions and agendas that serve to divide us by race, socioeconomic status or geography.”

Broome likened Baton Rouge to a tarnished piece of fabric that can be sewn together to create “a wonderful, colorful, distinctive, and inclusive quilt that will be the new Baton Rouge.”

Tulane freshman and Baton Rouge native Evan Doomes said he feels Broome’s administration will be a step in the right direction.

“The election of [Donald] Trump and John Kennedy for Senate felt like a big step back, so it was a glimmer of hope to see a progressive black woman win as mayor for the first time,” Doomes said.

Following her theme of inclusivity and unity, each attendee of the inauguration was given a small square of fabric to commemorate the occasion.

Broome’s message centers on her belief that the only way Baton Rouge can progress is if everyone does so together.

“During the campaign, I met so many people across this parish,” Broome said on election night. “I have seen in your faces the passion for a better tomorrow, and I am humbled to have the opportunity to work with you to build a stronger, a more unified and a more progressive Baton Rouge.”

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