Mayor, Council Sworn In

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Meridian, Miss. Just before noon Monday, Meridian's new mayor and city council took their oaths of office in a ceremony at the Temple Theatre.

Percy Bland and five members of the city council, three of them new to the office, were installed before a standing-room-only crowd in the theatre that seats about 1,600.

One speaker described the day as being a 'hingepoint in history' for the swearing in of the city's first African-American mayor.

After taking the oath of office Bland became emotional when talking about his own life and reflecting on that of his father, who he says got his start by working for $1.50 a day picking cotton.

"I ran for mayor so that the child in the building today who feels that story can have hope and opportunity here in Meridian," said Bland. "And I in some small way through leadership can open that door. Meridian, as Kim Barney Houston said, 'it is a new day in Meridian, Mississippi!"

The new mayor vowed to work to renew the entrepreneurial and prosperous spirit which he says has been lying somewhat dormant in Meridian.

Bland is 41 and owns his own insurance agency. He is the 34th mayor of Meridian.

All five members for the city council were also sworn into office. Three of those, Kim Houston, Kenneth Dustin Markham and Randy Hammon are new to the board.

"We know that this journey is not going to be easy," said Houston. "So, we're depending on each and every one of you to help us. Let us know what is going on. Don't come to us with your belt and switch in hand, but come and talk with us."

"I can only promise you this, we will find out what's been going on for so many years, and why we haven't progressed," said Hammon. "And when we find out why, we'll move forward."

The new council's first meeting will be Tuesday at 9 a.m. at city hall.

Bland is expected to announce several appointments to city departments. The city has seven different departments whose heads are appointed by the mayor including both the police and fire departments, along with public works. The city council is required to affirm those appointments.