New Orleans — District E City Councilman James Gray raised his right hand Thursday for the second time in a little more than a week and swore to do his best to serve the residents of eastern New Orleans, Desire and the 9th Ward.

Saying he wanted to get to work as soon as possible, Gray officially took office Dec. 18 during a private ceremony in his new City Hall office with his wife, Juvenile Court Judge Ernestine Gray, officiating. He was on the dais two days later for his first City Council meeting.

On Thursday, though, he held a symbolic public swearing-in ceremony attended by dozens of his family and supporters.

Describing Gray as a statesman rather than a politician, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said the new councilman will lead not only the district, but the city to a brighter future.

“When we say that we elected our best and our brightest, in James that’s true,” Richmond said. “I have no doubt James Austin Gray II will do a great job on the City Council.”

Jackie Callender Sr., who once coached track with Gray, said that he knows that Gray has the leadership skills and character to bring about positive change.

“Right now the city needs a James Gray,” he said.

While Austin Badon led the Nov. 6 primary, Gray came from behind to claim the council seat with 58 percent of the vote during the Dec. 8 runoff.

Gray will fill the remainder of the term of former Councilman Jon Johnson, who resigned during the summer after he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

Gray said he’s ready for the 16-month term ahead and plans to do his best to advance the district.

“The real test is whether or not we do any good. We’ve assembled a good staff,” he said. “Hopefully we will not disappoint you. And we will do the things you expect us to do, and we will make progress in this city and district. I believe those things will happen,” he said.