Although Sylvester Turner won't be publicly sworn in as Houston's 62nd mayor until Monday, the former state representative took the oath of office Saturday in a brief private ceremony at City Hall, with his daughter at his side and his hand on a well-worn Bible that he used during his time in the Texas Legislature.
U.S. District Judge Al Bennett administered the oath to Turner and City Controller Chris Brown, in front of a small group of family and friends.
Turner chose the private ceremony to meet requirements of the Houston City Charter, which mandates a transfer of power on January 2, and avoid overtime costs that would have been accumulated if police and other city employees were on duty during a holiday weekend for a public inauguration.
“This was a decision based on financial concerns,” Turner said in a statement. “We always have to be mindful of the bottom line.”
Turner's predecessor, former Mayor Annise Parker, chose a similar route when she was sworn in during a private ceremony in January 2010 before a public inauguration two days later. Parker, who has been in city government for the last 18 years as council member, controller and mayor, has accepted a two-month teaching fellowship at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, beginning February 1.
The public inaugural for Turner, Brown and Houston City Council will take place at 9:30 am (January 4) at Jones Hall. A pre-inaugural celebration is planned for 4:30 - 6:30 pm Sunday (January 3) at Market Square Park. The free event is open to the public and will feature live music, food trucks and a fireworks finale.
Turner’s resigned as State Representative for District 139 on January 1. He had served in the State Legislature for 26 years before he was elected Houston's mayor in a close run-off last month.