Habitat for Humanity ReStore Manager Deborah Davis and former Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham took their oaths of office as members of Camden City Council during a brief ceremony at Camden City Hall on Monday evening. Current Mayor Tony Scully delivered the oath of office to Davis, while Municipal Judge Rick Todd administered the oath to Graham.
A large crowd gathered for the swearing-in ceremony in council chambers where they found Graham and Davis’ nameplates already affixed to council’s dais. Graham, who served as Camden’s mayor from 2008 to 2010, fills a seat recently vacated by Walter Long; Davis fills Willard Polk’s seat. Long and Polk chose not to run for reelection.
Davis’ husband, Tom, held a Bible for her as she took her oath of office. Graham’s wife, Sara, held a Bible for him as she held their daughter, Elizabeth Bailey, and son, Edwards, stood nearby. The new council members addressed the audience, thanking supporters for their votes and promising to do what they could to make the city’s future a good one.
Davis dispensed with making her comments from an offered podium. Instead, she stood directly in front of those gathered to make her remarks.
“I want to say this has been a wonderful journey,” Davis began. “It has been exciting. I have not regretted it … with all the people I meet, the more I have fallen in love with Camden. I’m not a politician. I am me, I am your neighbor; that’s who I am. And I want to help the other council members be your voice and do what’s right and what’s fair for most of the residents in Camden. You and I all know, we can agree to disagree, but we need to think about, at the very end, what is the very best for the community of Camden. And I pledge to do that.”
Davis apologized in advance for not being able to attend Tuesday’s scheduled Classic Tree Lighting Ceremony, but explained she would be hosting a Habitat for Humanity Christmas party.
“But, I will do my best and have a good time and enjoy every cotton-pickin’ minute of it, and I hope you will join me,” Davis said of her coming time on council.
Graham did speak from the podium where he and Davis had taken their oaths. He said he looked forward to working with the other members of council.
“Camden is special,” he said. “You look in this crowd, we have young, we have old, we have in between and we have a community that I love. And for that, I am grateful and honored to have your support, your vote and, most importantly, your friendship as we continue to work to make Camden an even stronger place so that opportunities are here for all of us -- opportunities from the south side of town to the east side of town to the west. This is our community. It’s important that we continue to work hard. It’s important that we stand up for thing when they are important to our community. And I will continue to do that. I will continue to fight for our community; I’ll continue to lift up our children. I’ll continue to work, tirelessly, not only for mine, but all those children that have an opportunity to come from the great place of Camden.”
Graham remarked on having been born in and grown up in Camden. He said he returned to Camden after college to be part of his family’s business and to be part of a community he cares about.
“Sara and I chose that opportunity. That’s something special in itself. I hope that you will work with me and this council as we strive to make our community stronger -- we strive to make it stronger and a better place for the future. It’s not about this council, it’s not about the next council. It’s about the 10, 15, 20 years from now -- the decisions we make, the decision we look into, the decisions that we struggle with. These are big decisions that have to be made, now, for the future,” Graham said.
He concluded by saying he looked forward to seeing those present at council meetings as well as at the grocery store, at church and on athletic fields.
“Wherever it may be, I look forward to being your voice and being a part of the future of Camden. Thank you,” Graham said.
Davis and Graham each received standing ovations following their speeches and when they took their oaths of office.
Scully ended the ceremony by saying he and councilwomen Laurie Parks and Alfred Mae Drakeford looked forward to working with Davis and Graham.
“We are thrilled to have two bright lights with us now on council to replace the two extraordinary gentlemen who just left us,” Scully said.
Davis and Graham will attend their first council meeting Tuesday.