The new decade brought a new, history-making leader for the city of Riceboro.
Joseph Harris officially took the helm Tuesday night as Riceboro’s new mayor – and, at 33, he is the city’s youngest one.
Dozens packed Riceboro City Hall to see the mayor and councilmembers take their oath of office. After the ceremony, many made a line to offer hugs and handshakes to the new mayor.
“It’s exciting that so many people have come out to support,” a smiling Harris said. “I’m definitely grateful for the support.”
Harris enters office following two long-time Riceboro mayors Bill Austin and John McIver. McIver shook hands with Harris after Tuesday’s ceremony.
The former Riceboro mayor and former Liberty County Commission Chairman called Harris a “people person,” with “bright ideas.”
“He’s just a blessing for us to have a young man like that – energetic,” McIver said. “We’re expecting great things from Riceboro.”
Harris said he will “continue progress,” adding that voters trusted him to bring “fresher, newer ideas.”
“The former administration had been exactly the same for 12 years, so over a decade,” he said. “We’re now marking a new decade, a new time, and a new beginning. So we want to just be able to build upon what the former administrators have done and continue the success of progress in the community.”
What’s first for the new mayor?
Topping the list: getting the word out that “Riceboro is open for business.”
Riceboro’s unique quality is being a “small-knit community that loves everyone,” and “everyone knows your name,” according to Harris.
“We want to maintain that small-town feel while also experiencing growth,” he said. “We want to advertise and make ourselves marketable, so that small businesses are able to come to our city.”
A Riceboro resident by way of Tampa Bay, Fla., Harris graduated Florida A&M University in 2009, then decided to go back to his roots.
He said he takes “great pride,” in what happens in Riceboro, pointing to his grandmother and his mother’s side of the family being from the area.
Fresh out of college, Harris became the city’s grant administrator and got a front seat to local government.
“I know what the city entails. I know about the Master Plan. I helped write and develop it. So, I’m just here trying to do my part for my community by serving God and my country.”
Quoting poet John Donne, the ordained Church of God in Christ minister also said he is not an island. According to Harris, he needs the council and the council needs the citizens and they need business partners.
“So, essentially, we all work together as a whole for the common good of our great city,” he said.
Other newcomers to the city’s leadership included councilmembers Pearlie Richardson-Axson and Louise Brown.
Riceboro City Council meets 6 p.m. every first Tuesday at its city hall located at 4614 South Coastal Hwy.