SAN DIEGO – In a pandemic zoom-style virtual inauguration ceremony presided over by the President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Toni Gayle Atkins, former Democratic State Assemblyman Todd Gloria was sworn in as the 37th mayor of the City of San Diego on Thursday, December 10 before the San Diego City Council.
San Diego’s new mayor made history across a spectrum of significant firsts as in addition to being the first openly gay person to lead the city, Gloria, “the son of a hotel maid and a gardener” is also the first person of color in the Mayor’s chair. Gloria is a third-generation San Diegan of Filipino, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Dutch descent.
In a March 2019 interview with journalist Karen Ocamb, Gloria told the Blade that he officially came out to his parents at 18, though he jokingly says he was never “in” the closet since he and apparently everyone at school knew he was gay. But he survived those difficult times to go on and graduate summa cum laude from the University of San Diego, having majored in history and political science.
In his inauguration address after he took the oath of office, Gloria thanked his parents, Linda and Phil, and his brother and his family. Gloria also thanked his partner, Adam. He paid tribute to his political mentors and then the people who helped get him elected. He then addressed his city as the duly-elected Mayor for the first time;
“My fellow San Diegans, it is with pride that I stand before you today as the 37th mayor of our city. I’m humbled by your support; I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve; I’m hopeful about the future of our city,” Gloria said. “Today is the day that we start building a San Diego that is truly for all of us.”
“As a kid who grew up in Clairemont, I didn’t see people who looked like me leading practically anything — let alone the 8th largest city in the United States,” Gloria said at his inauguration Thursday. “But today, I stand before you as the first person of color and LGBTQ person to ascend to our city’s highest office.”
“This is a testament to what we all know: San Diego is a unique place, with incredible people, where anything is possible,” he continued. “It is the birthplace of California and a bridge between two nations. It’s the home of artistic creativity, groundbreaking innovation and research that changes the world. It is the place where the son of a hotel maid and a gardener, a Native American, Puerto Rican, Dutch gay guy has just become your mayor.”
As Gloria outlined his plans for his first 100 days in office, he stressed that his greatest priority is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We will be rolling out an aggressive strategy to address the worsening public health crisis in COVID-19,” he said. “The economic crisis that is impacting San Diego’s families, small businesses, and our city budget. The housing and homelessness crisis that has become even more dire.”
“My team and I are moving swiftly and decisively to protect our most vulnerable. And we’ll do it with a long-term goal of building a more resilient city in the process,” Gloria added. “It’s not enough to get things back to normal. Normal wasn’t and won’t be good enough.”
The Mayor then promised San Diegans that he and his team would build a coalition effort to work across all sectors of the city to accomplish the goals he was outlining.
“If we dream big, work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything. We will change the narrative — not just for the privileged few, but for everyone — especially those who have traditionally felt unheard,” he said.
“It’s the dawn of a new era. We will recover and build back better and stronger from COVID-19,” the mayor continued. “We will stand up for workers and create good-paying, local jobs that bring neighborhood improvement to all corners of our city.”
Gloria addressed the issues of racial equality and the Black Lives Matters movement.
“We will center racial justice and equity not just in public safety but in everything we do recognizing that Black Lives Matter,” he said.
He then vowed to “fully and faithfully” implement San Diego’s climate action plan “to ensure that the city that we love is here for generations to come.”
“I believe in us, San Diego,” the mayor said. “I know who we are and who we can be. I am so proud to be the mayor of this great city but I’m even more excited about what we can accomplish together. Because together, I know we will build a San Diego for all of us.”
“If we dream big, work together and believe in San Diego, we can accomplish anything.”
In the March 2019 interview, addressing the LGBTQ community in his city, Gloria told the Blade, “We had a recent report where there’s 40,000 San Diego young people in their late teens and early 20s who are completely disconnected from the worlds of education and the world of work. Those are young people who are going un-utilized in our economy and that’s a missed potential towards the vision I have of a great city.”
Gloria says he wants to “keep that ladder of opportunity in place. I want to rebuild it where it may have been broken. I believe it because I’ve experienced it and I want others to have that same experience. And right now I think there’s good reason to doubt that that ladder exists. But my goal, my ambition, my vision is to rebuild it – not just for queer kids of color like me but really for every person who is going to work hard in San Diego.”
It’s a power of compassion, strength and responsibility that Gloria told the Blade that he hopes to bring home to San Diego. “I often talk on the campaign trail about this being a mayoral campaign and a hopeful administration that is focused on real people and on real problems,” Gloria says, adding that he carries the voices of LGBT history with him. “Hopefully, I can make our community proud.”
As one commentator reflected, now that he’s mayor, he has that chance.
Additional reporting by Karen Ocamb