A Personal Account of the Event

By Allan Jamail

Houston, TX. ~ January 2, 2024 ~ At 9:30 am in the Gus S. Wortham Theater Center/Alice and George Brown Theater, North Channel Star writer Allan Jamail lined up next to the media representatives of all the major news organization to bring the NC Star readers his photos along with his account of his friend Houston’s Mayor John Whitmire’s Inauguration.

The program participants were: Khambrel Marshall (Master of Ceremonies), the Houston Symphony with conductor Gonzalo Farias, the Houston Police and Fire Department Joint Honor Guard (Presentation of Colors), Dylan Zhong (Pledge of Allegiance), Ailyn Perez (Principal Artist), Houston Grand Opera (National Anthem), Reverend Michael Gott (Inaugural Blessing), Kenneth Gayle (Tenor) and Reverend Michael Gott (Soloist) (“You’ll Never Walk Alone”), Mary Griffin and Shaun Smith (Soloists) (“Up Where We Belong”), and Eduardo Trevino and Mariachi Nueco Imperio (Finale Song, “La Charreada”).

The Honorable Victor Trevino III, Harris County Precinct 6, Place 1, gave Mayor Whitmire and City Controller Christopher George Hollins their Oath of Office. Mayor Whitmire then gave the Oath of Office to the City Council.

I want to begin by giving a big shoutout to Sue Davis, Whitmire’s Communication Director. Davis kept Jamail and all the other media photographers and writers well informed for the past thirteen months of all of Whitmire’s campaign activities, including election results and up to today’s inauguration. She has been an asset to the NC Star and others in the news media. Sue played a major role with her skills in the communications field to help then-Senator John Whitmire go to now-Mayor John Whitmire.

The NC Star and I covered all of Whitmire’s mayoral candidacy events: his announcement on November 29, 2022, his winning as top vote getter in Houston’s first contest on November 7, 2023 — which put him in a runoff against second place finisher Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee — and then his being elected as Houston’s 63rd mayor on December 9, 2023, and now today’s inauguration. JW, as his friends call him, is 74 and the oldest person to be elected mayor in at least 100 years.

Whitmire was actually officially sworn in as mayor in a private ceremony in the mayor’s office at 12:01 a .m. Monday, on New Year’s Day, as required by the city’s charter. Immediately afterwards, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner took him on a ride in the city so he could see first-hand some of the issues officers face. Today’s swearing in ceremony is for the public to be able to witness it.

Today after the inauguration, Mayor Whitmire had his first City Council meeting at 11 a.m. At 2 p.m., Whitmire met and greeted Houstonians in the first-floor rotunda at City Hall, which is something he announced he would do after he won the runoff election.

He said, “As your mayor, I’ll have an open-door policy so citizens can come visit me and let me hear their concerns. My first day as their Mayor, I’ll personally open the door for citizens to come into their city hall.”

Mayor Whitmire praised the city’s public work’s personnel, police and firemen, and others. He was critical of some conditions in the city; he said he will give more attention to them than some other administrations have, in order for citizens to be able to see a cleaner healthier city. He said you can walk outside the building here and see homeless people, and he wants to correct this situation as much as possible.

Again he stated that public safety was his top priority. He said we can make improvements in all areas of the city, but if the public is not safe, then all other improvements don’t mean anything. His tough stance on crime comes from when he was much younger and his wife, kids, and himself were robbed at gunpoint after they pulled into their home’s driveway one night. He said he thought the gunman was going to murder him. “At the time all I could think of was how could I protect and save my wife and kids.”

“We’ve got some serious issues with public safety. We need additional officers,” Whitmire said. He went on to speak about his commitment to holding violent offenders accountable, saying he’ll push for new laws if that’s what it takes.

As a senator, Whitmire stopped those on death row from getting anything they wanted as their last meal. He was angered by convicted murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer’s refusal to eat the expensive last meal he ordered prior to his September 21, 2011, execution. Whitmire said that this was Brewer’s attempt to “make a mockery out of the process.” The senator contacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and asked the agency to end the practice of last meal requests or he would get the State Legislature to pass a bill doing so. The agency replied that last meal requests were accommodated “within reason” from food available in the prison kitchen, but it agreed to end the practice immediately at Whitmire’s insistence.

His position on air conditioning in prisons is tough. In 2021, Whitmire stirred controversy by responding to questions about the lack of air conditioning in prisons by saying: “You know, we can talk about this all day, it’s not gonna change. The prisons are hot. They’re uncomfortable. And the real solution is, don’t commit a crime and you stay at home and be cool. We’re not gonna air condition them. One, we don’t want to. Number two, we couldn’t afford it if we wanted to.”

Whitmire was born August 13, 1949 in Hillsboro, Texas, north of Waco, to James Madison Whitmire, the Hill County clerk, and the former Ruth Marie Harris, a nurse. His parents divorced when he was seven years old, and the family moved several times, facing difficult financial circumstances.

In his early teenage years, he moved to North Houston and attended Waltrip High School. Whitmire attended college at the University of Houston to study political science while paying for his education by working for the Texas State Welfare Department, where he interviewed food stamp recipients for compliance.

Whitmire is a member of the Democratic Party, and he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in January of 1973 and served until January 1983. In 1983, he won the Senate District 15 seat, and recently resigned effectively December 31, 2023 after his election as Mayor of Houston.