The mood was both celebratory and somber at Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony of Bradenton’s three incumbents who won new terms at the dais.
Mayor Wayne Poston and Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. were sworn into office in the presence of friends and family, while Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo did not participate in the public ceremony. Gallo, who lost his wife Patricia in a freak accident before Christmas, opted to perform a private ceremony days earlier in the presence of his two daughters.
Gallo did attend Tuesday’s oath of office to support his colleagues, and he thanked the community for its support during his difficult time.
“I want to offer a heartfelt thank-you to this community and to my friends and family at city hall,” Gallo said. “The support you all have showed to myself and to my family is overwhelming and I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I lost my best friend and God will give me the strength to get through this, with your help.”
Gallo, who had served as vice mayor for the past year, then moved to transfer that power to Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff. The motion passed unanimously and Roff will serve as vice mayor for 2017.
Poston swore in Byrd, who is beginning his fifth term overall, though not consecutive. Byrd said this will likely be his last time serving as city councilman.
“I’m 99.9 percent sure that in four years, someone new will be sitting in that seat,” said Byrd. “I’m not a political guy and I even agreed that change is good on the city council. But as I said during the campaign, now is not the time for that change.”
Byrd said there is much this council has set forth in motion, and it will be a busy year ahead to push those things forward.
“We have a lot of items as far as the downtown areas — it’s time to redevelop our neighborhoods and create an economic development environment to provide jobs,” Byrd said. “We are trying to bring something beneficial to all of the citizens, and I hope to take care of those things in the next four years.”
Retired Father Dennis Kaezar administered the oath of office to Poston, who is set to serve his fifth consecutive term. Poston joked that he never meant to become a career politician, but said his work is not over in transforming Bradenton from what it was to realize its full potential.
“It was only supposed to be a couple of terms,” Poston said. “But we were in such a fiscal and sociological mess when I took office that it’s taken longer. We have good people in place who know what their jobs are, and I’m thankful to have another opportunity to work with that group and carry Bradenton along further.”