Gloria sworn in as San Diego’s first mayor of color, first openly gay mayor

Todd Gloria, San Diego's new mayor, replaced termed-out Mayor Kevin Faulconer, left, in online ceremony
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria gives his inauguration address during a virtual ceremony. Gloria is the first person of color or LGBTQ person to be elected as San Diego mayor.
(Courtesy of the Office of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria)

Five new members also sworn in to City Council, creating 8-1 Democratic majority


Todd Gloria became San Diego’s 37th mayor and the city’s first mayor of color during a Thursday morning, Dec. 10, inauguration ceremony, during which Gloria promised aggressive new policies to solve the city’s largest challenges.

“We will be rolling out an aggressive strategy to address the worsening public health crisis in COVID-19, the economic crisis that is impacting San Diego’s families, small businesses and our city budget, and the housing and homelessness crisis that has become even more dire,” Gloria said after being sworn in.

“Over the next 100 days, we will dispense with the small issues that past leaders have struggled to resolve so we can focus on the biggest problems facing our city,” the new mayor said. “If we dream big and work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything.”

Openly gay, he will be the first mayor of color and arguably the city’s most powerful leader

Five new council members and incumbent City Attorney Mara Elliott were also sworn in for four-year terms during the inauguration ceremony, which took place online for the first time because of the pandemic.

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San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria takes his Oath of Office and gives his inauguration

Courtesy of the Office of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria

The new council members are Joe LaCava in District 1, Stephen Whitburn in District 3, Marni von Wilpert in District 5, Raul Campillo in District 7 and Sean Elo-Rivera in District 9.

Whitburn echoed Gloria’s comments about the potential for remarkable achievements in the city under new leadership, including a Democrat as mayor and a council with an 8-1 Democratic majority.

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“We have a city government that is more aligned on issues than any in recent memory,” Whitburn said. “We have an opportunity to advance past the us-versus-them mentality that has prevailed in San Diego for so long.”

Von Wilpert agreed that it is crucial for the city’s new leaders to fight divisiveness.

“With a new mayor and a new City Council, we have a unique opportunity for creativity, for unity, for new ideas and progress and not politics as usual,” she said.

Campillo said that despite the domination of city government by Democrats, it is important that the new leaders focus on “building bridges, not drawing lines in the sand.”

Campillo said he was also eager to work with a new brigade of young members on the council, where five of the nine members are in their 30s: Campillo, 33; Von Wilpert, 37; Chris Cate, 37; Elo-Rivera, 38; and Vivian Moreno, 38.

Elo-Rivera said the progress made by the city’s new leadership must go beyond anything from the past, especially regarding income inequality in communities south of Interstate 8.

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“The challenge for those of us entering office today is not to return things to normal,” he said. “Normal is not good enough.”

San Diego needs to make unprecedented progress on housing affordability, climate change, transportation, healthy neighborhoods, public safety and justice for all, Elo-Rivera said.

Mayor Gloria offered similar sentiments.

“Let’s be done with saying we are just America’s Finest City,” he said. “It’s time for us to dare to be a truly great city.”

Gloria also noted that he is the city’s first openly gay mayor in addition to being the first mayor of color, which he said reflects San Diego’s changing demographics.

“Today marks a new chapter in San Diego’s history,” he said. “It is a place where the son of a hotel maid and a gardener, a Native American, Filipino, Puerto Rican, Dutch gay guy has just become your mayor.”

LaCava thanked his parents, who were immigrants from Italy, for instilling in him the values of hard work and giving back to the community.

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He also poked fun at himself and his reputation as a policy wonk.

“I don’t mean to be technical and in the weeds, but sometimes you will find me in the tall grass,” he said.

Outgoing Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who couldn’t run for re-election because of term limits, summarized his accomplishments and praised Gloria.

“I know he has what it takes to overcome today’s challenges and keep San Diego leading well into the future,” he said.

Outgoing Councilman Scott Sherman, who is also leaving because of term limits, urged the new council to fight the influence of special interests and focus on what’s best for the city’s residents.

“Remember, we are stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.

— David Garrick is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune