Mayor Jesse Arreguin swears into office, brings hope for more progressive leadership

Heather Feibleman/Staff

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In 2004, two UC Berkeley students, roommates Jason Overman and Jesse Arreguin, swore in as Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board commissioners. On Thursday, 12 years later, the two found themselves in Old City Hall as Arreguin swore into a city position once again — this time, as Berkeley’s first Latino mayor.

A crowd of about 100 people from around the city gathered Thursday morning to witness the swearing-in ceremony for the new mayor and City Council members Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn.

“Part of what inspired me and Jesse to run together for the rent board 12 years ago was that we, as students at the time, didn’t always necessarily feel that students had a voice in City Hall,” Overman said. “This is a mayor that’s going to be a mayor for everyone.”

People began waiting in front of Old City Hall at 9 a.m to see the ceremony, which began at 10 a.m. Among the crowd were current and former City Council members, former mayor Shirley Dean, former mayor Gus Newport, acting Chief of Berkeley Police Department Andrew Greenwood, city Rent Stabilization Board Chair Jesse Townley and Arreguin’s parents.

Arreguin said he hasn’t yet had the time to develop a policy agenda for the first few weeks, however, his priorities are dealing with the affordable housing crisis, city homelessness and the closure of the Berkeley campus of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

“Not only is this the first day of office, but also I think it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate a significant victory,” Arreguin said. “A year ago, if you asked people ‘Would we be here?’ everyone would say ‘no,’ and that Laurie Capitelli was going to be sworn in as mayor.”

Arreguin’s opponent in the mayoral campaign, former Council member Laurie Capitelli, did not attend the event but said he anticipates closer scrutiny of housing development under the new city leadership.

“Time will tell whether there’s more that developers can pay … Berkeley faces a number of issues and we’re going to see some different approaches to those issues,” Capitelli said. “I wish the new council good luck in dealing with them”

Harshil Bansal, a campus sophomore and political director of Cal Berkeley Democrats, attended the ceremony and hopes that Arreguin will make changes in housing and safety for students.

Cindy and Humberto Arreguin, Jesse’s parents, were sitting at the front when he officially became mayor. Cindy Arreguin began to cry as she watched her son, who she said had wanted to be a public servant since age six.

“He used to watch the news starting at the age of five and he was just so upset by all the injustice, so he wanted to change the world,” Cindy Arreguin said. “He has a great heart. He’s going to be a great mayor.”

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said Jesse Arreguin’s election and the council’s progressive majority has made him the most hopeful he’s been in the 20 years since he joined City Council.

“Berkeley’s going to have to continue to fight for values that make Berkeley such a great community,” Arreguin said. “Municipalities are going to have to lead the way, particularly due to the fact that we’re not going to see much coming out of Washington (D.C.) in the next couple of years.”

Contact Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.