Michael Pantelides, the 30-year-old Republican sworn in yesterday as mayor of the heavily Democratic town of Annapolis, took office in a ceremony that set both a bipartisan and ecumenical tone.
But it didn’t hurt to be Greek.
The standing room only crowd at the nearly century-old theater in Annapolis’s Maryland Hall gave the city’s new mayor a standing ovation even before he began his inaugural address. He seemed to know why.
“Throughout the country, citizens are disappointed because their leaders are not listening to them. I will listen to your voices,” Pantelides promised. “I’ve always said God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we talk.”
The GOP political novice won office in part because of widespread unhappiness with Josh Cohen, the Democrat he narrowly unseated, who critics say took controversial steps without enough consultation.
In yesterday’s address, Pantelides repeated campaign promises to address fiscal and environmental concerns while promoting the capital city’s economy. “We have the resources, historical and cultural, to make Annapolis again as it was referred to in colonial times, the Athens of the East.”
That last part could be seen as an inside joke. Yesterday’s ceremony might have been dubbed a movie sequel: “My Big Fat Greek Inauguration.” Annapolis’ large and influential Greek community turned out in spades for the swearing in, much as it supported Pantelides with money and manpower during his campaign.
The ethnic significance of the event was underscored by the presence of Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos, as well as a representative from the embassy of Cyprus.
But Father Kosmas Karavellas, pastor of Annapolis’ Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox church, thanked voters outside the Greek Community for their crucial support. “It couldn’t just be for the Greek Community that he could win, he needed everybody else,” the pastor said. “We are a big number, but we are not that big a number.”
Mayor Pantelides will no doubt be watching the numbers as his turn in this tough job unfolds.