Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young received his moment in the sun Thursday after assuming Baltimore’s top job when his predecessor left under a cloud.
Young automatically ascended to the executive position without needing to be sworn in when former Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned last week. The 51st mayor, who was in Detroit when Pugh stepped down, decided to engage in a little pageantry and held a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday at the War Memorial.
“For those who don’t know me, my name is ‘Jack,'” Young, a onetime city trash collector with a reputation for speaking bluntly, said at the start of his remarks.
Raised in east Baltimore, Young’s the middle child in a family of 10 kids, who earned his first job with the Baltimore City Council working for then-Council President Mary Pat Clarke’s office.
As Young started to thank the members of the council, on which he served as a member since 1996, he grew emotional. From the audience, Clarke, who announced Wednesday she was retiring as the councilwoman from District 14 after spending 35 of the last 44 years on the council, called out in support, “we’re all here.”
As he tried to compose himself audience members stood and cheered Young. His wife, Darlene, walked to his side to comfort him. Young continued with tears in eyes and again choked up thanking Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who temporarily served as council president before members elected Brandon Scott to fulfill Young’s term.
While he did not specifically mention the self-dealing scandal that forced Pugh to resign, Young acknowledged recent “trying times” and mentioned issues plaguing the city, ranging from violent crime to a computer virus that infected computers at City Hall this week, before praising the grit of the city’s residents.
“I don’t know nobody else that is more resilient than Baltimore,” Young said to loud applause. “I’ve encountered a number of people who are weary, frustrated, and angry, who questioned if Baltimore would ever catch a break … but the people of Baltimore, much like our great city, are made tough.”
Former congressman and later national NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, all Democrats like Young, addressed the crowd at the inauguration.
Gov. Larry Hogan was the lone Republican to speak. Hogan, who enjoyed a relatively friendly relationship with Pugh, expressed optimism he’ll maintain a solid relationship with Young.
Young has previously said he doesn’t plan on running to keep the job of mayor and that he was happy in his previous post as council president. If Young decides to run for mayor his campaign has a significant funding advantage, reporting $600,000 on hand to start the year. A poll released this week found that 19 percent of likely voters wanted Young as mayor — second behind former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who attended Young’s swearing-in ceremony.
While Young has acknowledged a prior ambition to be the city’s mayor, sources who work with him are split about how serious he was about the goal. Most said Young was obviously kidding when he previously declared he wanted to be mayor; others are not so sure he wasn’t being sincere.
Young was appointed to the position of city council president after Dixon resigned, and the council president, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, took the role as executive.
He was elected to the position in 2011 and had served in that role until filling in for Pugh when she took a medical leave of absence in early April.
In the 2016 Democratic primary, the city’s de facto election, Young earned 69% of the vote against activist Kim Trueheart.
First elected 23 years ago as one of three council members from the old 2nd District in East Baltimore, Young has held office since. After the council shifted to 14 single-member districts he represented District 12, which stretches from Washington Hill in east Baltimore north to Charles Village.