Two new faces were sworn in and a familiar one received a promotion during a mostly ceremonial meeting of the Palm Springs City Council Thursday evening.
During a two-hour meeting that saw multiple speeches by incoming and outgoing councilmembers, as well as audience members who packed Council Chambers, Dennis Woods and Geoff Kors left the dais and Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Bernstein and Councilmember Ron deHarte were sworn in. Mayor Grace Garner then took the oath of office from outgoing Mayor Lisa Middleton — a moment that was met by a standing ovation.
Kors and Woods used the moment to not only thank their families, supporters, and the councilmembers they served with during their tenures, but also to point out how their own life stories shaped them for the roles they were now leaving.
Woods pointed to history the Council made during his time in office when it was at one time comprised solely of members of the LGBTQ community, but also noted some history of his own.
“I was the first out and proud Leatherman on the City Council, and that’s important” he said. “It’s a very strong group of men that do incredible work around the world for gay and lesbian people.”
Kors pointed proudly to opportunities that are now available to members of the LGBTQ community, including some he helped bring about during his legal career, as he reflected on the fact that at one time his father could not get hired at New York law because he was Jewish, despite graduating at the top of his law school class. He also urged the City Council and residents not to shy away from addressing controversial issues.
“Issues that create controversy and divide our residents are those that have existed in the community for years,” he said. “Ignoring them only allows for the status quo.”
As Woods and Kors departed, Bernstein and deHarte took their seats. Due to the rotational approach used for appointing the city’s mayor and mayor pro tem, Bernstein, from District 2, will serve as mayor pro tem for next year because Garner, the new mayor, is from District 1. DeHarte, from District 3, will be elevated to mayor pro tem next year and serve as mayor starting in December 2024.
“The five of you led the city through one of the most difficult moments in our city’s history, and that should not be forgotten” Bernstein said as he addressed his current colleagues and councilmembers who had just departed. He then went on to note how special the city had made him feel.
“When my husband and I moved to Palm Springs, we were given so much,” Bernstein said. “The city embraced us from day one. And that’s why I choose to give back.”
DeHarte, who was administered the oath of office by former Mayor Ron Oden, thanked those who worked for his campaign and all residents of his district, promising to work toward making housing in the city affordable for all.
“I will lead the effort to build workforce housing so our residents who work in our city can afford to live in our city,” he said.
The moment many had come to witness came last. Garner was sworn in by Middleton and was surprised as the audience rose to its feet. With her parents looking on from just off the stage, the second-generation city resident said she was “proud and humbled” to be the city’s first Latina mayor.
She thanked her fellow councilmembers for guiding the city through the pandemic, and thanked Councilmember Christy Holstege for paving the way for a new generation of younger women to rise to power in politics. She also promised to continue efforts at outreach with all city residents, promising a “mayor’s book club” among other efforts in the new year.
“Connecting with all of you is the best part of this job,” said Garner. “I hope to do a lot more of it in 2023.”