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Gray's First Weeks as Mayor: Fairly Calm

James Wright | 1/19/2011, 9 p.m.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray did not experience any major problems during his first week in office. Courtesy Photo

The new mayor of the District of Columbia's first week on the job remained relatively quiet considering the important events that occurred in the city and the country.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) spent his first full day - Mon., Jan. 3 -- in private meetings on city business, but he was in the public eye on Tue., Jan. 4 on Capitol Hill to help D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton keep her vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives when the Committee of the Whole convenes. The GOP-led House's vote on Wed., Jan 5, to take the Committee of the Whole vote of Norton and the other delegates away did not please Gray at all. "I am extremely disappointed that the House majority in the 112th Congress started off on the wrong foot by adopting rules that silenced the small voice District of Columbia taxpayers had during the past two Congresses," Gray, 68, said.

"The House leadership today stood and called the House of Representatives the 'people's House', but then went on to shut the door to the people who live in the nation's capital."

Gray said that the votes of the delegates have been declared constitutional by federal courts, and that "the people who live in the capital of democracy should not be forced to suffer the consequences of changes in political parties and partisan whims."

Gray said that the fight for D.C. statehood will continue despite the congressional setback.

On Fri., Jan. 7, Gray announced members of his governing team: Dr. Mohammad N. Akhter as the director of the Department of Health; Wayne Turnage will lead the Department of Health Care Finance; Antonio Hunter will direct the Department of Small and Local Business Development and Linda Wharton Boyd will serve as the director of communications. Gray said that his selections reflect a need for good service to District residents.

"As I have emphasized in announcing other talented professionals to my administration, these individuals are team players with extensive backgrounds and expertise in their fields and are committed to bringing new and innovative ideas for service delivery and policy implementation for the benefit of the residents of the District of Columbia," he said.

Gray said that Hunter will work to bring small businesses into the District's business mainstream."

"Mr. Hunter will act as an advocate for small businesses which consists of 70-75 percent of all businesses in the city," he said. "We want small businesses to have opportunities to compete for government contracts."

Hunter said that he and the mayor had a "great conversation about keeping dollars in the District."

"We will work with small businesses to decrease unemployment in the District," said Hunter, who is employed as the director of disadvantaged businesses on the Dulles Metrorail project in Northern Virginia for the Bechtel Corporation.

Akhter, who is currently a professor in the College of Medicine and Health Management Programs at Howard University, served in the administration of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry as the commissioner of public health from 1980-1984. Akhter said that he will work to improve health care delivery throughout the city with the latest technology, drugs and devices.

Turnage previously worked in the administrations of Virginia Governors Mark Warner and Timothy Kaine on issues dealing with health care, Medicaid and insurance reform. He is presently employed as the chief of staff to the president of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

Boyd is a nationally recognized public relations professional who served as director of communications during the Barry administration. She worked for D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large) as his chief of staff.

The mayor of the District often comments on events that get national attention and Gray has been no exception. He said that the person who left a suspicious package at the 3300 block of V Street, N.E. postal facility that caught fire on Jan. 7 committed a "cowardly and dastardly act and must be brought to justice quickly."

There were no injuries reported as a result of the incident.

Gray also joined President Obama's call for a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Mon., Jan. 10 to honor the victims of the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., which included U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). On that day, Gray ordered all flags to be flown half-staff and requested that his staff and other government employees gather in the atrium of the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest for a moment of silence.

"We all feel a deep sense of loss and hurt by this unfathomable incident," the mayor said.

"Right now, we must come together as a community to join the rest of the nation in prayer and reflection for the victims and their families and all others who were impacted by the tragedy. Let us be mindful that such heinous acts by a few do not reflect the overall good of the American people," he said.