Steven Reed took his oath of office Tuesday, becoming the first African-American mayor of Montgomery, Alabama.
Before a packed house at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre, the former judge addressed the sea of faces anxious to witness the historic moment.
“Loyalty, faith and perseverance are pillars that have built this community,” Reed said in his inauguration speech. “Let’s mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we’ve come. We have a duty to ourselves in this society. This is the meaning of living our creed.”
He continued, “This is why the son whose parents weren’t even served in a local restaurant just up the street, and whose father led sit-in protests for equal treatment under the law can now take this oath and help write laws that apply equally to all.”
Reed, 46, made history in October after winning a two-to-one landslide in a runoff election against Republican David Woods. The probate judge surged ahead of nearly a dozen mayoral candidates in the primaries, later winning 67 percent of the votes cast in the runoff.
Per the Montgomery Advertiser, Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony was initially to be held at City Hall but was switched to the MPAC, as close to close to 3,000 guests were expected. Tickets to the ceremony quickly sold out, forcing some attendees to watch the swearing-in from an overflow area.
Reed’s father, Joe Reed, offered kind words about his son ahead of the inauguration, praising him as the city’s new leader.
“We have a chance to make Montgomery big and bold. Big and bold,” Joe Reed said. “You will set the tone. You will really set the image. You’ll be the face with the case. And it’s up to you to set that pace. I’m confident you will do it.”
“I am elated and your mother is there beaming,” he added. “She deserves to beam.”
Also in attendance were at least 22 other mayors from across the country, including Mayor Hardie Davis of Augusta, Georgia, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
Reed’s win was an important one for the predominately Black city, which served as the birthplace of the modern American civil rights movement. Montgomery saw several notable events in the push for equal rights, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Before Nov. 12, Montgomery had never elected a Black mayor and was one of three major cities in the Deep South that had no African-American representation in its highest executive office. In a recent interview with CBS News, the new mayor said it was an honor to lead the city, adding he hoped MLK Jr. “would be proud.”
“It took too long,” he said. “If you rewind the history of this country, it is complex, it is complicated, but it’s one that is ongoing. So, I’m just a person that’s kind of carrying the baton right now, and hopefully I’ll be passing it on to a new generation with a little bit more progress being made than we are where we stand today.”
In 2012, the young magistrate was elected Montgomery County’s first Black probate judge and became the youngest person to ever occupy the county’s highest elected office. Since then, Reed has built his platform on improving mental health outcomes via court reforms on the involuntary commitment process, strengthening election integrity and upholding the rule of law. He was also the first probate judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in 2015.
Once settled in to his new role, Reed will be tasked with overseeing the city’s $260 million budget. He’ll also face pressure to find funds for employee benefits and public safety, as well as address issues pertaining to the city’s failing public schools, poverty rates and crime, according to the Advertiser.
But Reed seems up for the challenge.
“We are assembled here because we chose destiny over division,” he said Tuesday. “Today, we are assembled here because we chose the future over fear.
Reed replaced outgoing Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, who didn’t seek reelection.