Baarsma sworn in as new mayor of Tacoma

A standing-room-only crowd in City Council Chambers turned out to see Tacoma’s new leadership, as a new mayor and three new City Council members were sworn in at the beginning of last night’s Tacoma City Council meeting.

Bill Baarsma was sworn in as the city’s new mayor, taking over for outoging Mayor Mike Crowley, while Connie Ladenburg, Mike Lonergan and Rick Talbert were sworn in as new members of the City Council.

Tacoma’s new mayor and new City Council members seemed eager to tackle the challenges and issues that await them, including a tight budget made all the more difficult by the national recession that has hit the state especially hard, welcoming a new police chief, improvement of the city’s neighborhoods and a rapidly-changing downtown bustling with construction.

“The year ahead will be a real difficult one,” Baarsma, 59, said, adding his priorities as mayor would be economic development, public safety and working with the city’s neighborhoods.

Baarsma served on the City Council from 1992 to 1999 and is resigning after 33 years of teaching business and public administration at the University of Puget Sound.

He said he will continue to be inclusive and seek broad citizen input, and as evidence of that he noted his transition team had grown from 15 people to over 100.

“The campaign is over, and now we’re all on the same team,” Baarsma said. “Everyone in Tacoma is an insider.”

Baarsma defeated former mayor and current Pierce County Councilmember Harold Moss in last year’s election.

Tacoma’s new mayor called his former opponent a “class act, a role model, a friend and my second choice for mayor.”

He thanked his supporters and family after taking office, praised City Council members for their individual talents, and noted that he thought the city’s new leadership would work well together.

“There’s no one who loves the city more,” Baarsma said of his dedication to serving Tacoma.

New City Council members also looked forward to serving the city over the course of the year and beyond.

“It’s such an honor to be sitting here,” Connie Ladenburg, 51 said, adding she never thought she would ever run for political office.

She told the crowd she used to fold laundry while watching City Council meetings on television.

Running for office may be a family trait. She is the wife of former county prosecutor and current Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.

She is coordinator for Safe Streets, a program for preventing drug and alcohol abuse and violence among young people, as well as other services.

Her focus will be on neighborhoods, with emphasis on public safety and good jobs.

“Our city is a community that really works hard for the people who live here,” Ladenburg said.

City Councilmember Mike Lonergan, 52, will bring his business skills to the council.

Lonergan, who is executive director of the Tacoma Rescue Mission, said “the squeeze is in” in difficult economic times and promised to work toward a better, more efficient government where “we find new and better ways to do things.”

It was an especially happy night for Lonergan, who was also celebrating his 19th wedding anniversary with his wife Paula.

“This is certainly the biggest anniversary party we’ve ever had,” he joked.

Lifelong East Side resident Rick Talbert, 36, described his first – and successful – political campaign as “enlightening.”

“Campaigns are really about people,” he said, adding it’s people behind the scenes and constituents who make things happen. “It’s a team effort.”

Talbert serves as assistant to Pierce County Councilman Wendell Brown.

“I look forward to serving the citizens of Tacoma,” he said.

Councilman Kevin Phelps also was sworn into office for a second four-year term.

“I think we’ve got a council that is going to get a lot done,” he said. “This is a great city. I love it.”

Councilwoman Sharon McGavick was appointed deputy mayor.