Mayor Kate Gallego and four female Phoenix council members were sworn into office at Steele Indian School Park Monday.
Monday marked a day of historic firsts for the Phoenix City Council, as the city is now the largest in the country to have both a female mayor and a majority-female city council.
Five council members, all women, were sworn in at Steele Indian School Park.
The council had both a female-majority and a female mayor when Gallego was elected to the position in 2019, but Monday marked the start of two of the women’s first official four-year terms with the city.
Two of them, Yassamin Ansari and Ann O’Brien, were sworn in for their first term. Betty Guardado, who was elected to the council in 2019 after former council member Daniel Valenzuela stepped down to run for mayor, was sworn in for her first four-year term.
Mayor Kate Gallego was also sworn in Monday for her first four-year term. Gallego took office in 2019 when former mayor Greg Stanton announced that he was running for Congress. Gallego won her re-election bid for mayor last November.
Councilmember Debra Stark was sworn in for her second term. Stark was appointed to a vacant council seat in 2016 and elected to her first four-year term in 2017.
The women, along with Councilmember Laura Pastor, now comprise two-thirds of the city council. The other council members include Sal DiCiccio, Carlos Garcia, and Jim Waring.
“This is the team that will address the many great changes facing the city of Phoenix,” Gallego said Monday.
Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the country with a population of approximately 1.7 million, is not the only city among the top five to have a majority-female council but also holds the distinction of also having a female mayor.
Phoenix also appointed Jeri Williams as police chief in 2016, the department’s first-ever female police chief.
‘Willing to Defy the Odds’
Female empowerment was a running theme at the inauguration.
Ansari’s election was a historic one for the city and Arizona. She is the youngest woman ever elected to the Phoenix City Council and the first Iranian-American elected to public office in the state.
“This moment honestly feels very surreal in more ways than one,” Ansari said, recounting her family’s history and emigration to the United States during the height of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. “There is an alternate reality here where I could have easily not been standing here.”
Ansari spoke about her grandmother’s experience growing up in Iran in the 1940s, a time when opportunities were limited for women. “She never let her circumstances get in the way of whatever it was that she wanted to achieve,” Ansari said. “She always persisted.”
Ansari also said she was ready to work with the council to lead the city out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Guardado also took a moment of silence to remember those who passed away during the pandemic. As of Monday, more than 17,000 Arizonans have died of COVID-19 during the last year.
Residents in Guardado’s district, which encompasses west Phoenix, have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 with the lowest vaccination rates in the city, she said.
Gallego has sparred with Gov. Doug Ducey in recent weeks over management of the pandemic.
On Monday, she said it wouldn’t be a “Kate Gallego speech” if she didn’t encourage all residents to wear masks and get their vaccine to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday, 38% of Arizonans had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The countries with the lowest rates of death from COVID-19—including Germany, New Zealand, and Taiwan—were led by women, although some experts have pointed to political ideology and collaboration with experts as significant contributing factors for their success in managing the pandemic.
Gallego called the group of women newly-elected to Phoenix’s council “remarkable.”
“One thing they all have in common is they were all told ‘Don’t run. You’re not going to win,’” she said. “They were willing to defy the odds.”