- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

RICHMOND — Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder yesterday took the oath of office to become Richmond’s first popularly elected mayor in nearly six decades.

After being sworn in by his former law partner, 4th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Roger Gregory, Mr. Wilder said Richmond’s residents are the city’s greatest strength.

“Starting today,” he said, “you, the people, are in charge of Richmond.”

He urged citizens to help him build a model city for Virginia and not to forget the solid foundation of Richmond.

Mr. Wilder, 73, said he hopes to give the people “a government that serves the people and not itself.”

Those who ignore his warning to end corruption, he said, do so at their own peril.

Richmond cannot survive on its own, Mr. Wilder said, and asked for support from the surrounding communities.

Mr. Wilder also said he wants an educational system that holds teachers, students and parents accountable.

He also urged Richmonders to never accept poverty or crime as a natural state.

All forms of crime, regardless of severity, he said, are unacceptable and must stop.

The grandson of slaves, Mr. Wilder became the first black elected governor, defeating Marshall Coleman in 1989.

Comedian Bill Cosby introduced his friend, saying, “It’s cleanup time.”

“You voted somebody into office who does not fool around,” Mr. Cosby said.

In 2003, Mr. Wilder and former Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. successfully pushed for a citywide referendum to scrap a form of government dominated by a city council that vests more power in a hired city manager than in a weak mayor chosen from among council members.

About 80 percent of Richmond’s voters approved the change in the November 2003 election.

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