SARATOGA SPRINGS — After his replacement took her oath of office and gave her remarks, Saratoga Spring's previous mayor, Timothy L. Parker, started a new tradition.
Removing the plate with his name and title on it from the desk name plate, he slid one in that read "Mia B. Love — Mayor."
That exchange was a first for the city and one of Love's many firsts. Friday night, when she was sworn in as the new mayor of Saratoga Springs, she also became Utah's first black woman mayor.
"I am honored to do this and I don't take it lightly," said Love. "I am really, really excited about where Saratoga Springs is going."
In 1912, Kanab elected Utah's first woman mayor, Mary W. Howard. The state's first black mayor, George Garwood, came from South Ogden in 2001. Now, 97 years after the first woman and nine years after the first black, Mayor Mia Love has set a record of her own.
"I'm just so proud of her. She's a real talent," said U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz at Love's swearing-in. "She's got a lot of people's confidence, including mine."
According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, of Utah's 2.6 million people, 49.5 percent are women and only 1.3 percent are black. In Utah County, the number of blacks shrinks to 0.5 percent. Love said her election is proof the people of Saratoga Springs aren't deterred by those numbers or old racial stereotypes.
"We're forward-thinking," Love said. "We're not bound by racial stigmas. People don't care about that. They don't even see a color."
Chaffetz agreed and said Love was elected because she was the right candidate, not the right color.
"It exemplifies it's about issues and personality. More than anything else, she's the best person for the job," he said.
Love took the reins from Parker, mayor for the past 10 years of the city's 12-year history. Three months ago, Parker worried he might regret not running for another term. But after working for months on a transition with Love and watching her take the oath, he said he feels good about leaving office and has complete confidence in Love.
"She's had six years of experience on the City Council," Parker said. "As mayor, she'll work with a lot of the same people as she has been for the past six years."
Love originally got into politics when the Supreme Court began discussing removing the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance six years ago. When asked, she'll say she never had political aspirations. She saw a need and wanted to help her community.
"All her participation has been because she loves the people," said Jason Love, Mayor Love's husband. "She's an amazing woman with strong convictions and strong morals.
As she gave handshakes, hugs and smiles to well-wishers and congratulators, the new mayor clutched her new name plate and insisted the best for her and for the city is yet to come.
"We have a bright future ahead," she said, "and I'm so excited to be part of that."