PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In a historic ceremony Tuesday evening, Rita Ali, former at-large councilwoman, officially became the first Black woman sworn in as the city’s mayor.
Ali said this day was a long time coming just an hour before taking the oath of office inside of city council chambers and eventually taking over the mayoral seat.
“Being sworn in as the first woman, the first African-American person of color,” Ali said. “Raising the status for women and people of color in leadership and I’m going to do my very best to support this great city.”
Ali is replacing outgoing mayor Jim Ardis who’s held the seat since 2005. Ardis wished Ali well in his final remarks before passing the gavel along.
“I am more than confident that Dr. Ali’s leadership skills, her knowledge of our community, and her desire to take this seat to the next level will be achieved,” Ardis said. “I wish Dr. Ali and her new council nothing but the best going forward.”
Tuesday also proved to be an emotional night for present city staff, both incoming and outgoing, many accompanied by loved ones as they gave reelection, new position, and farewell speeches.
In addition to Ali, all five councilmembers, the city clerk, city treasurer, and new township supervisor took the oath of office.
Ali also said she plans to retire from her job as Vice President of Workforce and Diversity at Illinois Central College on June 30th.
“I’m going to hit the ground running, and I’ll be available to do this job on a full time basis,” Ali said.
The city council also welcomed Denise Jackson and Andre Allen representing the city’s First and Fourth Districts respectively following outgoing council members Denise Moore and Jim Montelongo.
“I love the First District, I did not realize how much I loved the city of Peoria and I’m looking forward to working with each and every one of you,” Jackson said to the city staff during her speech.
“I’m going to go in here as a sponge and learn a lot and to represent the constituents of the District 4 and ultimately the city of Peoria so thank you so much I do not take this for granted and it’s time to get to work,” Allen said.
Jim Montelongo, outgoing Fourth District councilman, and Ali’s mayoral opponent, filed for a discovery recount that will take place Monday, May 10. During his outgoing speech, Montelongo said going forward he plans to focus on his business and home life.
Ali said her first line of action will be helping the city council come together, building relationships amongst the new council, as well as beginning to work towards a new strategic plan involving the citizens.
She also said they will discuss filling her now vacant At-Large council seat Tuesday, May 11 in closed sessions.
“We’re going to have a process where all interested and qualified individuals can apply and we’ll begin to go through a vetting process to decide who’s going to fill that seat,” Ali said.