CATHEDRAL CITY – It was an evening of firsts, an evening of lasts, and, above all, an evening of class.
The evening was billed as an inauguration of Mayor Gregory S. Pettis as mayor and Mark Carnevale, Ernesto Gutierrez, and Raymond Gregory as Councilmembers. The four join incumbent Councilmember John Aguilar on the dais.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd, Pettis, Gutierrez and Gregory were sworn into office. Carnevale chose to take his oath of office earlier and in private.
Pettis is the first openly gay person to serve as mayor of Cathedral City, the second largest community in the Coachella Valley.
The excitement in the room was palpable as outgoing Mayor Stan Henry, outgoing Councilmember Shelley Kaplan, Aguilar and Carnevale took their seats on the dais. It was 5:30 p.m. and one chair remained empty – the one belonging to Pettis.
As attendees scanned the room and kept an ever-watchful eye on the entrance, one woman exclaimed, “Here he comes.”
“Here comes Greg Pettis,” a man echoed.
Then silence fell on the room.
The evening began with an emotional farewell from Kaplan, who served four years on the City Council. He called his tenure, “surreal.” He thanked staff and his colleagues, calling them “friends” and referred to Pettis as a “rock,” praising him for his institutional knowledge and history of the city.
Kaplan said Gregory and Gutierrez are “excellent” candidates-turned-councilmembers who will continue to move the city forward.
Cathedral City has historically had low voter turnout, which Kaplan addressed before the evening festivities began. Kaplan said he was disappointed in the low voter turnout and called on greater voter participation.
Henry also thanked staff before relinquishing the mayor’s chair to Pettis.
It was, by any definition an inauguration, a ceremony to mark the beginning of a new era. The evening was filled with pageantry, blessings, and song – all showcasing the community’s rich cultural diversity.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Cathedral City High School ROTC. The Cathedral City High School Choir performed the National Anthem and other songs, including “Carol of the Bells.”
The Rev. Clinton Crawshaw of Metropolitan Community Church delivered the invocation.
Sean Milanovich of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians delivered a tribal blessing that included smudging. Smudging your sacred space, your home or office, or even your body with sage is like taking an energetic shower, or doing a deep metaphysical cleansing. The smoke from dried sage actually changes the ionic composition of the air, and can have a direct effect on reducing our stress response.
Rabbi Kreimann also delivered a blessing, first in Hebrew, then in English.
“”This is such a very powerful night,” Kreimann said. “…This city is a trendsetter.”
Mayor Pettis ticked off a list of issues, projects, and ideas the City Council will discuss at a goal-setting retreat in January.
At the top of the list, he said, is to “propel Cathedral City to the top of all cities in Riverside County.”
The evening was punctuated with laughter, numerous standing ovations, uproarious applause, and a deep desire to move the city forward as a collective body.
The formal festivities were followed by a reception that included refreshments and music featuring the Mariachi Arcoiris De Los Angeles, the world’s first Mariachi to represent the LGBT community. Its primary purpose is to bring their culture and music to all. The group’s members include the first transgendered woman in Mariachi in the world as well as other members of the community and allies that all have one thing in common — love and respect of their music and for everyone’s right to love.