South Bend's all-Democratic council swears in New Year's Day

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- It's the first day of the new year, and the first day of the new term for public officials like Mayor James Mueller, the city clerk and the common council.

South Bend now has an all-Democratic, majority-female, majority-minority common council.

Sherry L. Bolden Simpson flipped the council's only Republican seat in District 5.

"I am the first Democrat since 1962, the first woman, the first Black woman to hold the 5th district," she said. "And now we are 100% Democrat. And so, that's historic."

The new city administration was sworn in Monday, New Year's Day 2024, at the Century Center in downtown South Bend. 

"I know people want to see how we're going to work, are we going to have diversity of thought, yes we are," Bolden Simpson said. 

The ceremony kicked off Mayor Mueller's second term in office.

"In our next chapter, we need to continue to chart our own, different course, toward unity and common ground," Mueller said. 

Returning common council members include Karen White and Rachel Tomas Morgan, both at-large positions. Troy Warner, returning to the 4th district, Pastor Canneth Lee to the first, and Sheila Niezgodski, returning to the 6th.

Sharon McBride, president and District 4 councilwoman, was under the weather but had a private swearing-in ceremony early Monday. 

New common council members include Oliver Davis, who won an at-large seat, Ophelia Gooden Rogers, filling the District 2 seat, and Simpson in 5.

Six of the nine common council members are now women, a first in South Bend.

"Women can work together. That's not an exception. We can, we will. We will bring something different, and that's good," Bolden Simpson said. "And that's why this is historic. And we can be a role model for other cities."

Not to mention City Clerk Bianca Tirado, the first Latina woman elected to a public office in St. Joseph County.

Mueller, in his remarks, warned against extremism as we enter a highly contested election year.

"Very few of us believe that the answer to our collective challenges is to push more extremism or find new ways to divide us," he said. "Yet, that's what occupies much of our civic discourse today. It's the cynical calculus that many running for office at the federal, state and county levels will seek to exploit."

On day one, he's calling for a more united city.

"There is not a conservative South Bend, a moderate South Bend, and a progressive South Bend," Mueller said. "There is not a west South Bend, an east South Bend, and a south South Bend. There is not a Black South Bend, a Latino South Bend, an Asian South Bend, and a white South Bend. There is only one South Bend."

Share this article: