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District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor became San Antonio’s first African-American and second woman to become mayor when City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to elevate her to the interim post, replacing outgoing Mayor Julián Castro. She was sworn in by City Clerk Leticia Vacek, surrounded by cameras and well-wishers shortly after Castro submitted his written resignation at the podium, more than five years after he was first elected to office.
Castro will now travel to Washington D.C. to be sworn in Monday as the Secretary of Housing & Urban Development in the Obama administration.
Taylor’s election came shortly after 12 p.m., following two rounds of open and competitive voting by City Council, and then a ceremonial unanimous vote once the contest was decided in her favor.
The vote was preceded by Citizens to be Heard, when various members of the public went to the podium to speak on behalf of a candidate. Representatives from the LBGTQ community were particularly notable. The process was orderly and respectful, and there were no efforts to disparage any of the four candidates.
In the first round of open voting before Council chambers – packed with supporters of the various candidates, City employees, media, and others – the number of Council members seeking the post was reduced from four to two candidates. Each Council member seeking the position was given several minutes to present their candidacy, and then each of the voting Council members was given time to speak before casting their voice vote.
District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales and District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, both first-term council members seeking the interim mayor post, did not receive any votes. That excluded them from a second round of voting, according to the rules established for the unprecedented procedure. Taylor received four votes in the round, while District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez received two. All four candidates abstained.
Voting for Taylor: Rebecca Viagran, Rey Saldaña, Joe Krier, and Mike Gallagher.
Voting for Lopez: Diego Bernal, Chris Medina.
A roll call vote was then conducted with eight Council members eligible to vote for either Taylor or Lopez. Lopez gained a third vote from Gonzales, while Taylor gained a fifth vote from Nirenberg. No one else changed their vote. Taylor and Lopez again abstained. With the vote 5-3, the City Clerk announced a third round of voting, again by roll call.
Lopez then asked Mayor Castro for the floor and announced he was withdrawing his candidacy in the interest of community and Council unity, throwing his support behind Taylor to become interim mayor. There were a few cries of protest from Lopez supporters in the audience, quickly smothered by a standing ovation that seemed to honor both Lopez’s gracious concession speech and Taylor’s elevation to the mayor’s office. The mayor and Council momentarily left their chairs to shake hands and embrace one another, before returning for an official vote, which was unanimous, confirming Taylor’s appointment.
“Anyone of us can do the job; I trust all my colleagues on the Council,” Lopez said afterwards. “But there was no need to prolong the process and subject everyone to a divisive fight. It’s incredibly important that from the outside looking in, and by that I mean outside San Antonio how we appear to other cities, that we project a progressive and unified picture now and in the years to come.”
Afterwards, Castro and Taylor both left the dais to stand in the well of Council chambers.
Castro resigned his office and submitted his letter of resignation and Taylor was then sworn in. Taylor’s first ceremonial act as interim mayor was to present Castro with a plaque from the Council. Castro left Council chambers with his family and Council resumed its meeting, with Taylor presiding as mayor and overseeing the passing of resolutions for selecting her temporary District 2 replacement and a temporary District 7 replacement for Medina, who is taking a three-month leave of absence to fulfill reserve military service in the U.S. Air Force.
“I appreciate the confidence of all my colleagues, and look forward to working with all of them on the many issues we face,” Taylor said, surrounded by family, friends and constituents after presiding over her first brief Council meeting.
*Featured/top image: Interim Mayor Ivy Taylor. Photo by Iris Dimmick.