GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington was sworn in Tuesday evening in front of a packed city commission chamber.
“It is clear to me that this city is a gutsy city, one that has worked through challenging times and difficult situations and has always come out better on the other end,” Washington said.
The same could be said about Washington. During his speech, he acknowledged the honor of being Grand Rapids’ first black city manager.
“It is to recognize the significance of the moment. Not that it is inferior to other moments, but it is to say something about the realization of the progress of our democracy. That has often been advertised, but seldom fulfilled,” Washington said.
He talked about his upbringing in the projects of Port Arthur, Texas. He said he was raised by a single mom who worked at McDonald’s.
“I want to thank her publicly on this occasion for every hamburger she flipped, every toilet she cleaned, for every floor that she moped because it was that kind of work ethic that she instilled in me that made me the man I am today,” Washington said.
He credited her, the rest of his family and the people who came before him for helping him get to the position. He noted Lyman Parks, who was the first African-American elected commissioner and later mayor in Grand Rapids, and current Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the first woman to have the job.
“It is that type of progress that allows me to stand here today and realize the dream of equity that so many who have gone before me were not able to do,” he said.
He promised to do his part to make sure Grand Rapids is “recognized and respected as a world-class city.”
While his swearing in was Tuesday, Washington has been on the job since last week.
He comes to Grand Rapids after years in Austin, Texas. His eldest daughter is finishing up her senior year there before his wife and younger daughter move to Grand Rapids.