SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Wednesday, Mayor-elect Van Johnson was legally sworn in as the 67th Mayor of Savannah.
The ceremony took place during the 157th Emancipation Proclamation Worship Service at Saint Philip African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Usually, the swearing-in ceremony takes place at midnight on Jan. 1st, but Johnson says he wanted to share the moment with the community.
“I’m going to become your mayor in front of you right now,” Johnson said enthusiastically.
Mayor Johnson may be starting a tradition, he was officially sworn at a surprise public ceremony. Mayors in years past have historically done this in private.
Johnson was surrounded by friends, family, and colleagues. Overcome with emotions the Mayor addressed a packed room of supporters, sharing his vision for the Hostess City.
“We are going to make sure that folks are taken care of and that we are empowering people to take care of themselves,” said Johnson. “We are going to ask the church to do what they do to make sure that they are not only free in their bodies bishop but make sure they’re free in their spirit.”
Mayor Johnson said the next few weeks are critical and he’s narrowing his focus.
“Processes and people and systems and again understanding the city in a new role,” said Johnson. “For 16 years I’ve served as an Alderman, I’m very familiar with that, they are not familiar with me as a mayor.”
As mayor, Johnson will serve alongside seven new council members. Something he said will bring a fresh perspective to the running of the city.
“I think what’s more exciting is that you have a council of individuals although new to public office are not new to life,” said Johnson. “They are not new to the community, they understand their community, they love their community, they have an eagerness to serve their community,” said Johnson. “So you just build on that for them to learn the legal and theoretical aspects of what they are now doing citywide.”
When he takes his spot in city hall he envisions a Savannah with affordable housing, sustainability, and low crime.
“Everybody wants Savannah to be safe and then if you are safe you need to feel safe and everybody needs an environmentally friendly community and that’s not just in our physical aspects, but also in our personal aspects,” said Johnson.
Mayor Johnson has already gotten to work, Wednesday he signed up to re-join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, something former Mayor Eddie Deloach opted out of it during his term in office.
A second, ceremonial inauguration for Van Johnson takes place Thursday evening at The Savannah Civic Center.
The event will be held in the Johnny Mercer Theater at 6:30 p.m. It will also include the official inauguration of the newest members of the Savannah City Council.