On Monday evening, new City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members raised their right hands and took the oath of office, officially ushering in a new era of city politics.
Municipal attorney Robert Palmer administered the oath to newly elected Assembly member ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Barbara Blake.
Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, who are both beginning second terms after being reelected in this month’s election, took the oath together.
Blake was sworn in earlier than Weldon and Hale so that family members and supporters could attend while still maintaining COVID-19-related social distancing and capacity rules in the Assembly’s chambers.
“Besides nerves, I’m feeling really good,” Blake said shortly after being sworn in but before the meeting started. “I feel joyous that our assembly will keep a progressive agenda on track.”
As a first official act, the newly formed body elected Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski as deputy mayor, a post she has held before.
Goodbye, Mr. Jones
As the new and returning Assembly members took their places, longtime Assembly member Loren Jones stepped aside.
Jones completed three terms on the Assembly and was barred from running again due to term limits.
As he departed, fellow Assembly members celebrated Jones’ service by sporting shirts emblazoned with his face and the words “Lo Jo”— a nickname for Jones — on the front. “There’s no meeting he won’t attend,” appeared on the back of each shirt.
Assembly members thanked Jones for his service and mentorship. Many praised his stamina, memory, and willingness to attend many municipal meetings.
In her remarks, Weldon estimated that Jones had attended almost 3,000 municipal meetings during his tenure.
Assembly member Carole Triem fought back the tears as she wished Jones well.
“It’s impossible to express my gratitude,” she said, praising Jones and the precedent his service set.
Assembly member Wade Bryson said he suspected that he had often been “the biggest pain in the neck” for Jones.
He said he would miss the way Jones talked, taught and provided insight into critical issues requiring the institutional knowledge Jones possesses.
City Manager Rorie Watt said that he admired Jones and his commitment to open meetings.
“It’s tough to be in the crucible of public opinion,” Watt said of Jones.
Watt said that Jones has a way of moving people—sometimes with “a swift kick in the rear.” He also praised Jones as an advocate for city staff members.
“It’s been a great privilege,” Jones said, addressing the crowd in the chambers and on Zoom.
“I am so used to being subjected to criticism that when given a compliment, it’s hard to know what to do with it,” Jones said.
Jones said that the experience of serving in the Assembly had been both rewarding and frustrating.
He praised city staff members and advised Assembly members to attend as many meetings as possible.
“Go to meetings, even those you don’t want to go to,” he said, adding that public meetings provide a forum to learn more about what’s happening in the community.
Jones said that he plans to stay active in the community and thanked his wife of almost 52 years, La Rae, for her support.
Assembly members presented La Rae Jones with a bouquet of flowers and thanked Loren Jones with a wine decanter.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund@email@example.com or 907-308-4891.