Gerard sworn in as Champaign mayor

“Don Gerard”: is officially the new mayor of the city of Champaign. He was sworn in at the start of the Champaign City Council meeting Tuesday night in front of a packed crowd with standing room only at Champaign City Hall.

“For the first time in six months, I was actually kind of nervous,” Gerard said.

Members of the audience lined up to capture photos and videos of Gerard’s inauguration, which was a historic moment for the city. For the “first time since 1999”:, Champaign has a new mayor.

Paul Faraci also joined him as a new member to the council now that he’s taken over for Linda Cross as the council member for District 5.

“It is thrilling that there was such a turnout,” Faraci said. “This was an exciting and humbling experience.”

Gerard embraced his children, mother and all the members of the council before taking his seat.

Gerard admitted that reading the council bills and heading the meetings will still take some getting used to. During the meeting, he stumbled over a little of the language in the bills.

“We need to get new writers,” Gerard joked after tripping over some of the words.

The new council completed its first meeting approving all bills unanimously.

Now that Gerard officially has his seat, he said he will continue to work with his “transition team”: and to meet with the city council regarding the city’s budget.

“It is great to have people in the community that are willing to donate their time,” Gerard said.

During next week’s council meeting, the council will discuss the budget cuts to the front desk of the police staff.

“The budget is the number one priority,” Faraci said. “We’re going to dig in line by line to see what issues we have and how we can become educated on them.”

Gerard added that his campaign foundations are something he truly believes in and not just promises.

“We have money in ‘rainy day accounts’ … and this may be the time to use it,” Gerard said.

Another issue he wants to deal with is the issue of minority hiring. This issue has been brought up by audience members several times in the past couple years. Gerard said with the recession, it is tougher for the youth in the community to get jobs.

“The best way to keep the community safe is to have teenagers working,” he said.

Gerard and Faraci have challenges ahead of them to try and deal with budget issues and community relations. But they are issues that Faraci said they will be ready to deal with.

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” Faraci said. “We’ve got a great group of council people and lots of people with experience ready to get the budget squared away.”

Gerard will have a different challenge on his hands next, throwing out the first pitch for the Illini baseball team on Friday.