Keith James becomes the first African-American "strong mayor" in West Palm Beach.
Good evening and thank you for being here today.
Today, one of the greatest cities on earth has given me one of the greatest honors of a lifetime.
One that humbles me like none before. That challenges me like never before. And, one that reminds me that I am only here because of you.
Because you believe, as I do, that our city is world class, and needs to stay that way, grow that way, come together that way.
Because you believe, as I do, that everyone who lives in this city should have a say in this city.
Because you believe our quality of life is grounded in caring for one another, where opportunity is our mantra, and diversity is our strength.
I believe that way. I will serve that way. I will lead our city that way.
But, today was made possible by the greatest unsung hero in my life.
Who inspired me to believe in myself when money was scarce and life was tough. Who motivated me to be good to others, and to pull for others. Who gave me a priceless education in the important things in life before I prospered from an Ivy League education that helped me in other parts of life.
I love you mom.
If you have been following my campaign, you know our story. She had me at seventeen years of age. She dropped out of college to work as a maid to put food on our table. The night of my election she sent me a short text which said:
“My little Mayor! (only a true Mother would describe someone like me as little). Look what God has wrought in your life. I am so proud of you! Who Knew? God Knew!”
Thank you, Mama, for all you have done throughout my life. I love you!!
To my kids who are here today: Keith Jr. and Amber. I am so very proud of both of you. You have grown into two outstanding adults, and I am so excited about your future. I am truly honored to be your father. You have both always supported my role as a public servant. I share this special day with you both. Thank you, Elaine, for being such a great mother to my wonderful children.
While being elected Mayor may be the highlight of my political career, being married to Lorna is truly the highlight of my personal life. My wife has been a significant source of strength, wisdom and compassion. She has been by my side and will be a great first lady in our city. I think I won a lot of support in this City because people knew that if I was elected they would have her working with me to improve the City. Lorna, thank you for always believing in me and inspiring me every day to be a better person. I could not have done this without you.
I want to thank my many family members who have journeyed here this weekend from as far away as Colorado and California to share this day with me. I appreciate all of you and look forward to showing off the beauty of West Palm Beach.
I want to take this opportunity to, again, thank Mayor Jeri Muoio for her leadership. Her tireless work over the last 8 years and the legacy she has created has truly transformed our City. I also want to thank her husband Chuck and her family for their sacrifices and for their support for her. Jeri, you are leaving West Palm Beach in a better place and have set a foundation that will benefit all of us for years to come.
To the Commissioners, I pledge to you that we will be partners in the work of this City. We will continue to build on the foundation that has been constructed by our predecessors as we work together to develop a community of opportunity for all our citizens.
There are many other elected officials and community leaders who took the time to be here today to acknowledge and celebrate our great city and its residents. Thank you! Our city will continue to work in partnership with each of you as we move forward.
There are some leaders who have had a big impact on me and our city. I want to thank Congresswoman Lois Frankel, who was our former Mayor, and who remains one my dearest friends and my closest political mentor.
I also want to thank our firefighters for their service and boots on the ground. And our police for their public service. Thank you to our labor organizations such as the SEIU who dedicate themselves to improving the lives of our city workers. I also wish to recognize our local Chamber of Commerce, and business groups such as the Realtors who continue to invest in our future.
I also want to acknowledge Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard. Mayor Bernard and I have agreed to embark upon a new era of collaboration between the City and the County on common issues such as workforce housing and homelessness. As issues become more complex, we must harden our resolve to develop solutions. Our common challenges should not be defined by political differences or geographical boundaries but should be approached with a desire to provide effective, efficient and achievable solutions. This can be only be achieved when we work together. I pledge to work with Mayor Bernard to identify such solutions.
We started this campaign for Mayor in August 2017, over 18 months ago. Since embarking upon this incredible journey, I have had the privilege of working with many talented and dedicated staff and volunteers, supporters and residents. Thanks to my supporters who have been with me the entire time, and who believed in our vision for the future of West Palm Beach, we overcame overwhelming odds and achieved victory. I want to thank all of you for your courage and conviction, and never losing faith in our mission.
When we started this campaign, we crisscrossed the City, listening to City residents in living rooms and in businesses across West Palm Beach. We engaged in a series of candid conversations about our city’s strengths and weaknesses. As a candidate, we made those issues the focus of my campaign and, as Mayor, those issues will become priorities of my administration.
Each Mayor before me has built upon the foundation constructed by their predecessor, dealt with the challenges before them and worked to create a new vision and direction for the city. I will do the same, but with a new approach.
Today is a new beginning for our city, our neighborhoods and our residents. It’s a chance for all of us to renew our spirit, put aside our differences and unite as one community.
In the coming days and weeks, I will be making some major announcements. I have assembled a talented team of professionals and community leaders to serve on my transition team. Over the next 100 days they will be volunteering their talents to provide strategies and ideas on major city goals. I will also be sharing new projects and programs as part of the Neighborhoods First Initiative, and the launch of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Group.
As I sit here today, I am humbled and deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve as your next Mayor.
My message is simple:
To our residents: You will always be our top priority.
To our neighborhood leaders: We are here to listen.
To our commissioners: We will work as partners.
To our staff: We will work as a team.
To those who live, work or visit here: West Palm Beach’s has a bright future ahead and everyone regardless of age, gender, sexual identity, or race is welcome.
I would like to close by acknowledging that today, April 4th is also the 51st anniversary of the senseless assassination of US Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. who shared with us a dream that one day we would live in a nation that judges each of us not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.
The historical significance of today, being sworn in as the City’s first African American strong-mayor, has not escaped me, and is worthy of acknowledgment as a milestone for all of us.
I want to end with this quote by Dr. King, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions of passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
That is how I see us – all of us – as citizens who are passionate and dedicated towards improving our future as ONE CITY. As Mayor, I believe our dreams can become a reality.
Please join me. Please work with me to make West Palm Beach a community of opportunity for all. I cannot do this without you. Let’s make it happen together! Thank you.