Editor's Note: This story came in after our Jan. 15, print edition had gone to press. It will be in our Jan. 22, print edition.
Standing-room only Monday night during Walthourville’s inauguration ceremony where the new mayor vowed transparency under his administration.
At least 200 Liberty County residents and officials gathered in Pleasant Grove AME Church’s multipurpose building with dozens more overflowing out the door.
The crowd came to see the city officially bring aboard its five council members and new mayor, Larry Baker. Walthourville had not had a new mayor since 2008.
Between all the greetings and after-ceremony photos, Mayor Baker took a moment to reflect on his new role and what it meant to see so many show up.
“That told me that the people wanted change,” Baker said. “I’m excited.”
Before becoming mayor, Baker served as a councilmember.
“My first election was in 1999, so I ran on the slogan Man for the Millennium. And now we’ve changed to another decade,” Baker said.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was in the number Monday night and later personally congratulated the Walthourville mayor. Johnson called Baker “a good friend for years,” referencing their work together during Georgia Municipal Association events. Johnson said it was important for him to take the time to be present.
“What affects Savannah affects Walthourville and what happens in Walthourville, Liberty County affects us in Savannah,” he said.
Johnson added that he was confident in Baker’s leadership.
“He’s a fine man who really loves his city, willing to work hard. He’s shown that before when he worked on council and I think the citizens of Walthourville are blessed to have him,” Johnson said.
Public involvement was important to Mayor Baker.
“We want to make sure that every citizen is involved,” Baker said in an interview after the ceremony. “We want to invite everyone in from Day One.”
Baker’s inaugural address also emphasized transparency, accountability, and being “excellent stewards of the citizens’ dollars.” He announced plans for a new public online finance system, to be called the Walthourville Wallet. He also plans to have a new multi-purpose facility built for youth and senior citizens.
Baker told Monday’s crowd that he was eager for what’s ahead and that he was “humbled, honored, and grateful,” for the citizens’ vote of confidence.
“I stand on the shoulders of great mayors before me who have guided this great city,” Baker told Monday’s crowd.
Of those mayors included Baker’s grandfather, Rev. Henry Frasier, Sr.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I love Walthourville and I look forward to working with our esteemed council members,” he said. “I assure you, the city as a whole will be at the forefront of every decision that we make.”
Baker makes Walthourville’s fifth mayor since the city incorporated in 1974.
Monday night’s inauguration included council newcomers, Bridgette Kelly and Sarah B. Hayes. Veteran councilmembers James Hendry, Charlie L. Anderson, and Luciria Luckey Lovette were also installed.