Ringing in the New Year from City Hall: Whitmire sworn in as Houston’s new mayor

Style Magazine Newswire | 1/1/2024, 11:20 a.m.
As Houstonians counted down the seconds to midnight, a crowd of John Whitmire’s family, friends, and political allies had their …
John Whitmire being sworn in as the City of Houston's 63rd mayor on January 1, 2024, by Harris County Justice of the Peace Victor Trevino, III, with daughters, Whitney Whitmire Jenkins and Sarah Whitmire.

By Akhil Ganesh / Staff writer, Houston Landing

As Houstonians counted down the seconds to midnight, a crowd of John Whitmire’s family, friends, and political allies had their own private countdown at City Hall. When they finished, John Whitmire took the oath of office as Houston’s next mayor in the early hours of Monday morning.

“I’m excited for the city of Houston,” Whitmire said. “We’ve worked hard for two years to explain our vision.”

Whitmire takes office after resoundingly defeating U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in December’s runoff. He ran on his record in the Texas Senate as a Democrat willing to work across the aisle with Republicans, and repeatedly has promised to improve relations between the city and the state. He also said the strength of his victory was a clear mandate from voters to follow up on his key platform issues, namely reducing the city’s crime rate and making sweeping changes at City Hall.

Immediately after Whitmire finished reciting his oath, he turned his attention to the assembled media and spoke about that vision for the future. First on his agenda was public safety, as he proceeded to embark on a ride-along with Houston Police Chief Troy Finner to kick off his term in office.

“Let the citizens of Houston know that we have no higher priority than to do everything we can to make this a safer city,” Whitmire said.

“For the troops to see us out there in the first few minutes (of Whitmire’s term), it speaks volumes,” Finner told the Houston Landing. He said that the pair of them visiting first responders would buoy spirits immediately – not just for police, but for Houston’s firefighters.

“We’re going to have fun out there. We’re going to see the troops, and maybe even solve a few problems out there,” Finner said. 

Houston’s violent crime rate already is on a downturn, but overall levels remain higher than before the pandemic. A key and controversial part of Whitmire’s plan involves bringing in 200 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to patrol Houston, with a specific focus on traffic enforcement. The controversy stems from allegations that DPS troopers were racially profiling Black and Latino residents as part of an identical plan rolled out in Austin.

The new mayor also will have to act swiftly on the city’s budget, as Houston stares down an impending fiscal crisis in 2025, according to outgoing City Controller Chris Brown. Whitmire spent the campaign asking voters to give him time to look at the numbers once in office before producing a long-term plan. He floated the idea of consolidating city departments and merging services with Harris County. 

Whitmire has promised audits of city departments to identify potential waste. Those will begin as soon as he takes office. 

He also has promised a more collegial relationship between his administration and City Council, and is looking for ways to make council meetings more accessible to the public. Some ideas include moving the meetings to evenings and rotating meetings between multiservice centers in all council districts. 

“Thank you for being here,” Whitmire concluded in a speech he gave to the friends, family and supporters who joined him at City Hall. “Let’s go to work.”

This first appeared on Houston Landing and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.