Hundreds turned out Tuesday morning to witness the swearing in of North Little Rock’s newest mayor as the city performed its inauguration ceremony at City Hall.
Joe Smith was sworn into his new office along with several other incumbents who were re-elected in 2012: District Judges Jim Hamilton and Randy Morley; Ward 1 Alderman Beth White, Ward 2 Alderman Maurice Taylor, Ward 3 Alderman Bruce Foutch and Ward 4 Alderman Charlie Hight.
Tuesday marked the first time in 24 years that someone other than Patrick Hays would be called mayor in North Little Rock.
"When I announced about a year ago that I would seek the office of North Little Rock mayor, I wanted to acknowledge three great leaders, Mayor Hays, Terry Hartwick and Eddie Powell," said Smith. "They have been my dear friends but now I want them to be my mentors."
Besides Hays, Hartwick and Powell are former city mayors.
Smith said he wanted to thank his friends, family, and the hundreds of volunteers who worked on his campaign.
Smith said he asked North Little Rock School Board president Scott Teague to his inauguration because he wanted it to be a symbol of how he wants to work closely with the city’s school district.
"My first piece of legislation will be to end the lawsuit with the school district," Smith said, which resulted in a round of applause from people who attended the inauguration.
Smith also acknowledged the role city employees play in helping North Little Rock possess an effective municipal government.
"I call them our unsung heroes," Smith said. "This past week showed they are our unsung heroes. They did a wonderful job."
Smith was referring to public works, streets, and electric crews who had to deal with the Christmas snowstorm.
Smith added that he was honored to have the city police department on hand at his inauguration.
"They are a part of my family," Smith said. "I salute you. They and I both promise you that we will keep you safe."
Smith also thanked his family and his wife, Missy.
"The only thing harder than being a candidate is being the candidate’s wife and family," Smith said. "Thank you very much. You have given me a lot of support."
Smith announced that his administration would be holding an open house on Sunday at City Hall to give people an opportunity to meet him and his wife.
"Happy New Year and God bless North Little Rock," Smith said.
While Smith was the main speaker of the day, re-elected officials made several other short speeches.
White was elected to her second four-year term. She thanked her family and God for allowing her the opportunity to serve another term. She said running unopposed was a humbling experience and wanted to promote programs that encouraged good health.
Taylor, now serving in his second term, thanked his family for their support and people he called his mentors – Hays and Alderman Murry Witcher.
Foutch is serving a second term but his first full term. He acknowledged his mother and sister who helped his door-to-door campaign as well as Smith.
Hight was sworn into his third term as alderman. "There is no way I could express the gratitude to the citizens of North Little Rock who gave me another term," Hight said.
Whitbey was sworn into her third term as city clerk/collector. She acknowledged her family besides Smith and Hays who brought her on board with the city in 1990.
Master of Ceremonies Vincent Insalaco introduced Smith before his swearing in. Insalaco served as Smith’s campaign manager in his election bid.
Insalaco said the day’s events should be celebrated.
"As we speak right now, people are dying around the world for this right," Insalaco said. "We should not take this for granted."
Insalaco said he served as master of ceremonies when Hays was originally sworn into office in 1989. He added it would probably be the last time he served as a campaign chairman for someone running for the office of North Little Rock mayor.