Photos by Dorothy Owen
Every two years at noon on the first Monday of the year, Salt Lake City conducts an inauguration ceremony on the east steps of its historic city hall to swear-in newly elected city officials. This year, five of the seven City Council members took the oath of office, including two representing Salt Lake’s Westside: Victoria Petro-Eschler (District 1) and Alejandro Puy (District 2). Community members gathered to observe this democratic tradition, which was the culmination of several historic firsts that better reflect the diversity of communities on Salt Lake’s Westside.
For the first time in the city’s history, the majority of the City Council comprises minority members, which is all the more remarkable as it occurred just two years after the first minority member was elected to the City Council. The council is also now majority LGBTQ, another historical first. In speeches and comments, city officials indicated that such diversity will better represent the interests of Salt Lake’s diverse population, especially on the Westside.
Both of these historic firsts were effected through a procedural change. The election results were determined by ranked choice voting, which allowed citizens to prioritize their preferences rather than select one person. In the Westside’s Districts 1 and 2, the new process created a competitive election that ultimately favored candidates who had neither worked for the city nor previously held elective office.
The ceremony’s program reinforced the celebration of the council’s historic diversity. The National Anthem was sung by Liliena Pupu’a of the Tongan American Free Wesleyan Church. Another musical number was sung in Spanish by the Salty Cricket students, and the concluding musical number was an original performance by Shaadie, a Salt Lake-based entertainer, entrepreneur, and owner of Mac Life, LLC.
Traditionally, the oath of office is administered by the City Recorder; however, this year several of the newly elected officials made more personal selections – another significant departure from precedent. Victoria Petro-Eschler had Alejandro Puy, a new council member and notary public, administer her oath. Alejandro Puy had Sherrie Swensen, the Salt Lake County Clerk, administer his oath. Amy Fowler had Judge John Baxter of the City’s Justice Court administer her oath.
Darin Mano made a different personal change. Instead of swearing-in on a religious book, Mano took the oath of office using his father’s PhD dissertation as a tribute to his father, who had recently passed away.