TEXAS – Hundreds of people clapped, sang and cheered Sunday afternoon during a three-hour ceremony celebrating the inauguration of Yolanda Ford, Missouri City’s first African American and first female mayor.
“Thank you to Missouri City for having faith and for trusting me to lead your city,” said Ford to applause after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner swore her in, another first — Houston’s mayor had never before officiated the mayoral inauguration of Missouri City.
Ford narrowly unseated Allen Owen, who had served as Missouri City’s mayor for 24 years, in a runoff election on Dec. 8. She took office as the city’s 11th mayor on Dec. 17.
During the nearly quarter century that Owen presided as mayor, Missouri City went through drastic change, doubling in population and shifting in demographics. Missouri City, which was 60 percent white in 1990, had become predominantly African American (42 percent) with sizable Asian and Hispanic populations, at 18 and 15 percent, by the time Owen left office.
Ford addressed the shifting demographics in her inauguration speech.
“There are many of you who sit here with joy, relief and overwhelming happiness,” she said. “But there are also those who have anxiety, anger and fear because I am a woman and a person of color.”
Ford encouraged people who were uneasy with her leadership to look at her deep investment in the city. “As many of you know, I am a native of Missouri City. I have grown up with your children or with many of you sitting right here right now. So my service to this community is personal and unwavering.”
Ford graduated from John Foster Dulles High School. She earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from the University of Houston and a Master of Architecture degree from Prairie View A&M University.
Before becoming mayor, Ford served since 2013 as a Missouri City District A council member.
Ford, who promised to unite the city’s diverse population during her campaign, called Missouri City “the most diverse city of our size in the United States,” and her inauguration highlighted various communities during her hours-long ceremony. The city’s current population is 74,000.
Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders spoke on the importance of faith and community; musicians, dancers and singers of color performed pieces ranging from jazz to a Turkish folk dance; and a spoken word artist delivered a stirring manifesto titled “I Am Black.”
As mayor, Ford says she will use her background as a professional urban planner to help make Missouri City a destination with business centers, restaurants and shopping to bolster the city’s commercial tax base.
“Missouri City has a long journey ahead with many challenges,” she said.
Some in the audience were instead looking back at the long journey that led to Missouri City electing an African American woman mayor. To them, Ford’s election provided inspiration and hope for further political change.
Aaliyah Eiland, who grew up in the largely black neighborhood of Hunters Glen, said her younger self would have been moved to see Ford’s success.
“The opportunity to witness the inauguration of not only the first African American but the first female mayor of Missouri City inspires that once young girl from Hunters Glen,” she said.
“It’s a historical event,” added Michael Patrick, citing Ford’s rise to the top of the city’s political leadership. “Hopefully part of a trend that will extend further into the political arena, all the way to the White House.