Applause isn't typically allowed inside the Asheville City Council chamber, and those attending the regular Tuesday-night meetings are asked to refrain from emotional outbursts. But loud cheers and claps punctuated a special Dec. 8 session at which three new Council members and a re-elected mayor were sworn in.
Mayor Terry Bellamy officially began her second term — the first Asheville mayor to do so since 1997, when the city instituted four-year terms — by presiding over a ceremony in which newcomers Esther Manheimer, Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell took their seats around the Council table.
The room was filled with family, supporters and city staff, with onlookers spilling out into the hall — another sight not typically seen at City Hall.
Bothwell, who eschewed the use of a Bible and affirmed rather than swore his oath of office, was the only new Council member to make a statement to the room, saying that, as he walked up the steps that day, 'It really hit me, the solemnity of this building. I felt the weight of this building like I hadn't before." Later that week, questions about Bothwell's religious views touched off an internet frenzy, with blogs around the country weighing in (see "Bothwell Atheism 'Controversy' Echoes Around the Web" elsewhere in this issue).
Bellamy also presented outgoing Council members Robin Cape and Carl Mumpower with resolutions of appreciation.
The mayor praised Cape's push for sustainable environmental and energy practices, noting, "She worked tirelessly to make sure we are the city we say we are when it comes to sustainability."
For her part, Cape pledged that those efforts would continue, saying, "I won't be up there, but I will be working on a lot of the things I have been working on."
Mumpower was absent, but Bellamy highlighted his eight-year record, including his focus on drug enforcement, votes against government spending and his position on illegal immigration.
Council member Brownie Newman, now halfway through his second term, was elected by his colleagues to serve as vice mayor. Newman will fill in when Bellamy is absent or recuses herself from a vote; he'll also help out when visiting dignitaries come to town.
Capping the evening was a post-swearing-in party for Smith and Bothwell at Barley's Taproom, where the two were surrounded by supporters.
Bellamy, meanwhile, celebrated in a different style, holding an invite-only gala on Dec. 11 at the Doubletree Biltmore Hotel. The formal event was also a fundraiser, with tickets going for $40 per person and the opportunity to be a $250 gold or $500 platinum sponsor. Bellamy spent nearly $30,000 for her largely unchallenged campaign.
At the reception, Bellamy joked about speculation that she was headed for higher office, but said she plans to concentrate her efforts on her second term as Asheville's mayor.