Mayor Madeline Rogero
2011 Inaugural Speech
December 17, 2011
Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park
Thank you all for being here. I am honored to be your mayor. This is a great privilege and I promise I will work every day to serve the people of Knoxville to the very best of my ability.
Governor Haslam, you honor us with your presence today. Eight years ago, who would have thought that we would be here together in these roles?
Thank you for the opportunity you gave me - a former political opponent - to serve in your administration.
That challenge prepared me to be a better mayor, and I thank you for that. I know we have a friend in Nashville and I look forward to working with you in our respective roles of Governor and Mayor.
Mayor Brown - thank you for your role today. Less than a year ago, you stepped up to be our mayor, and you have served with dignity, with honor, with humor, and with excellence. You have helped this transition go smoothly and I am very grateful.
I thought it fitting to have this ceremony here at the Jacob Building in the heart of the sixth district, the district you will continue to represent as you leave the Mayor's office.
Thank you for your outstanding leadership and service to our city.
To all current and former elected officials, thank you for your presence here today and for your public service.
To all the people who brought me over the finish line and to those worked so hard on this wonderful event, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To my husband Gene, our children, our grandchildren, my parents, and all my family here today: Thank you for your love, your support, and your patience through the long campaign and for the journey ahead.
What makes a great city? As I take office, this question has been on my mind. It seems to me that a great city has events such as this -- where hundreds of people come together on a Saturday morning to celebrate the next chapter in our city's life. Where an honor guard and girl scouts and pastors and performers remind us of our blessings, our talents, and our freedoms.
What makes a great city? A great city recognizes and celebrates its milestones. We have seen the first Governor from Knoxville in a century, our first African American Mayor, and now the first female mayor in Knoxville and in any of Tennessee's four big cities. This has been a year of firsts for our great city. A great city works together for common purpose. Judge Rosson and City Council, I look forward to working together, each in our distinct roles, firm in the knowledge that we share a love for our city and a dedication to doing the best for all of our citizens.
What makes a great city? As I look at the smiling faces before me, I know that a great city also opens its arms and gathers into its midst the diversity of its people -- from white collar to blue collar; from labor to management; from every neighborhood north, south, east, west, and downtown; people of all races and colors, people of all abilities, gay and straight, people of all faiths, from the youngest to the oldest, from the richest to the poorest. We built our campaign on diversity and inclusiveness and that is how we will govern.
All of us are Knoxville, and Knoxville will only become greater if all of us are involved and respected.
During my 31 years in Knoxville, I have seen a culture change for the better. Governor, if I might use your words from four years ago, we are building a culture of respect for each other, a culture of openness, a culture of participation, a culture of inclusion, and most importantly, a culture of confidence in who we are and optimism in what we can be. We believe in ourselves and in our ability to become a better community.
As I enter the Mayor's office, I am determined to stay focused on our core values and on the strategic priorities that will make our city stronger and sustainable. We must make choices today that meet our needs without jeopardizing the needs of our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.
We are entrusted with an opportunity and, indeed, an obligation to leave Knoxville a better place than we found it - a stronger, safer, healthier, and more equitable city.
And how do we do this? A great city is a complex and dynamic enterprise - a puzzle of people and places with needs and opportunities, competing interests and yet common bonds. So how do we get our arms around that?
We focus first on growing a vibrant local and regional economy where entrepreneurs succeed and businesses profit, resulting in good jobs and opportunities for our people.
We must be bold in charting our economic future, willing to think in new ways, embracing new technologies, and working in stronger partnerships among the private and public sectors to capitalize on our assets, the strengths of our outstanding institutions, and the talents of our workforce, always mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of our limited natural resources. We must be willing to forego the lure of short term gains for long term prosperity.
A great city is a place where it is easy to do business, where city staff provides excellent customer service, and where concerns of the business sector are heard and addressed.
A great city rebuilds from the heart of its downtown and out to its core neighborhoods, preserving its rich historic buildings, and reinvesting in its built infrastructure.
A great city uses strategic public investment to maximize private sector investment in order to drive development in desired areas. We did this successfully downtown and we have a great opportunity along the I-275 corridor and south waterfront, while preserving South Knoxville's urban wilderness and trails that connect the ridge tops to our neighborhoods and the waterfront. We have a great opportunity to build outdoor recreation opportunities in Knoxville, driven by a creative partnership of private sector investment and strategic public and nonprofit support. The outdoor recreation industry has continued to grow even during this recession. We can turn our outdoor adventure assets into an economic driver for East Tennessee, resulting in tourism, business and job growth, and a healthier quality of life for our citizens.
What makes a great city? A great city knows that good business is environmentally responsible business. Good development is environmentally responsible development. A great city recognizes that environmental stewardship and economic vitality go hand in hand. It's just good business sense.
Living green and working green was a key component of my campaign, and it will be a core value of my administration.
A great city has strong, safe neighborhoods where children can play outside; where families can walk and bike, and have access to parks and greenways and healthy, recreational opportunities. Great neighborhoods have active neighborhood organizations that work together to take control of their neighborhoods and prioritize their needs in order to work effectively with city hall.
What makes a great city? A great city celebrates and invests in the creative talents and genius of its arts and culture community. The arts are the heart and soul of a city, as well as an economic driver and tourism strategy. We are blessed with a vibrant arts and culture community and I look forward to working with them as Mayor.
A great city provides solid stewardship of taxpayer dollars along with dependable, efficient city services. I will always remember that city revenues are your hard-earned dollars. We must be fiscally responsible and accountable to you.
A great city is committed to public participation. We, like all American cities, have diverse groups whose interests do not naturally align. We constantly face the challenge of governing in a way that respects our disagreements.
We have learned that we get things done because of public involvement. From Market Square to the Transit Center to the South Waterfront plan to the Regal Cinema on Gay Street, the evidence is clear.
We know we won't ever completely agree, but we have learned to keep our disagreements from paralyzing us.
The best public decisions reflect inclusive public processes that operate within financial and technical limits. There is a time to listen, a time to decide, and a time to act. My administration will do all three.
In the next four years, I will stay focused on making our government responsive, efficient, open, and fair.
Knoxville has a special feel of time and place. Maybe it is our location - deep in a river valley surrounded by magnificent mountains and hills. Our history of independence and hard work has driven our entrepreneurial spirit. It also has driven our creative spirit through words and music.
James Agee and Cormac McCarthy's eloquence has kept the Fort Sanders of the teens and the Happy Hollow of the fifties forever alive. Nikki Giovanni's poetry brings to life again the summers of her youth. I will borrow from the eloquence of RB Morris' present-day words put to music.
"Then --- there is a city... Lifted up. There is sequence to unfold.
"Then, there is a city."
So, as our sequence unfolds, what can each of us do to lift our city?
This is an exciting time: a time of renewal and rediscovery, serious challenges and great opportunities.
I pledge to meet challenges and opportunities with an unmatched enthusiasm - fueled by your trust and confidence.
I also look ahead to the tests that are before us, knowing that we will emerge stronger, better and wiser as a community for the lessons they will teach us.
Let us reflect on the power of our individual and collective actions to unite our city and build an even greater Knoxville for our children and grandchildren. Because isn't that what it's ultimately about - our children?
You know, maybe the question is not just what makes a great city, but who makes a great city. And the answer is... we all do.
May God bless each of you and may He bless our great city.