COUNCIL BLUFFS — The changing of the guard after 26 years took less than a minute Thursday.
Longtime City Council member Matt Walsh was sworn in as mayor in a brief ceremony, assuming a job held by Tom Hanafan for more than a quarter-century.
Inaugurated at the same time were incumbent Councilwoman Melissa Head and new Councilman Al Ringgenberg, who is taking Walsh's place on the council.
Walsh, 57, served on the council for 19 years. He has been a banker since graduating from Creighton University in 1986 with a finance degree. Now he will serve as mayor full time.
The ceremony took place in the council chambers, packed with about 75 people, including city employees, family members and Iowa officials like Secretary of State Matt Schultz who, before being elected to higher office, was a city councilman here.
The three were sworn in by City Clerk Marcy Worden, who, as the three lined up, said, “Everybody ready to go? OK.”
They repeated after her, promising to support the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions and impartially do their jobs to the best of their abilities. When the two council members said they would be members of the city council at the same time Walsh said serve in the “office of the mayor,” the audience laughed.
When it was over, those watching applauded and cheered.
Walsh, a former construction laborer and beer truck driver, said he had no prepared speech. He invited the crowd to a gathering immediately afterward at the reception center at Walnut Hill Cemetery.
“Please, everyone's invited,” he said. “We argued a little bit about, maybe it didn't start the right tone to start the office at the cemetery, but it is where it is.” And everybody laughed again.
Both Head and Ringgenberg made brief comments.
Hanafan watched the proceedings through an open doorway to an adjoining room. He said he was looking forward to retirement and seeing more of his grandchildren.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “It's really nice to see the number of people here to support the two council members and the mayor. . .This is a big change.”
Walsh said afterward he was looking forward to tackling the economic development projects needed to keep Council Bluffs moving.
“I'm excited to get down and get to work,” he said. “Been talking about it for 60-plus days (since the election) and it's time to start.”