The Austin City Council ushered in a new year with two fresh faces, Jimmy Flannigan and Alison Alter, who were sworn in at its inauguration Friday evening.
“We are all looking forward to working with you and to the contributions you will surely make,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.
The new Council is the second under the 10-1 system, where members are elected by single-member districts instead of citywide, a move Adler has said would better geographically represent the city.
“This is the only time that the brand new 10-1 council transitioned to a new city council,” Adler said. “I think that’s pretty special.”
Small business owner Jimmy Flannigan ousted incumbent Don Zimmerman in the race for District 6 with 56 percent of the vote during last year’s city election, two years after losing to Zimmerman. Philanthropic advisor Alison Alter defeated Sheri Gallo for District 10 in a runoff election in December.
Zimmerman, a software engineer, was the fiscally conservative voice through his concern for taxpayers and striking down of projects he saw as financially excessive.
Flannigan has said the way Zimmerman dissented and caused friction with fellow council members poorly represented his district.
“It’s been an emotional ride in District 6,” Flannigan said. “To serve with honor and respect [and] to serve in a way that we can work together here on the dais and actually get stuff done, it’s the greatest honor of my life.”
Council member District 9’s Kathie Tovo, whose District the UT campus falls within, was unanimously elected again as Mayor Pro Tem, the member who presides over the council when the mayor is absent.
“Thanks for the confidence that you have exhibited in electing me to serve for the next two years,” Tovo said.
Council member District 1’s Ora Houston nominated Tovo for her demeanor and guidance under the same role for the past two years.
“She’s used to dealing with change,” Houston said. “She listens to all opinions, [and] she’s very patient and thoughtful in the way she handles even disagreements.”
Alter and Gallo disagreed over the development of two areas of land, the Grove and Austin Oaks. Gallo, a real estate agent, supported quickly building housing at the Grove to accommodate a rapidly growing city.
Alter said she wants to focus on existing community issues such as lack of public parks and poor upkeep in those areas.
“I want to put community first,” Alter said. “We can choose to be victims of growth, or we can steer our destiny as a city.”
Council members District 4’s Greg Casar, District 2’s Delia Garza and District 7’s Leslie Pool were re-elected following their two-year terms. Garza’s voice trembled slightly as she thanked the support her family gave her.
“I was lucky to be raised in a wealthy family, but wealthy not in terms of money,” Garza said. “But wealthy in terms of love and support.”
Garza said she looks forward to representing the Hispanic population within her district.
Casar recalled the first time he was sworn in, remembering how he sprinted back from a recount and his shirt was wrinkled. Casar also said change starts at the municipal level.
“Solutions to our most pressing problems are just not going to come from the Legislature or the federal government,” Casar said. “They’re going to come from our cities.”