As she was sworn into office Monday as East Baton Rouge Parish mayor-president, Sharon Weston Broome dove right into the the topic of race, calling it Baton Rouge's Achilles' heel and pledging to try to heal long-simmering divisions in the Capital City.

A crowd of about 1,000 showered Broome with applause as she took the oath of office in the Theatre for the Performing Arts at the Raising Cane's River Center. Her first full day as leader of the city-parish is Tuesday, though she has been working on her transition since she won the election in the Dec. 10 runoff.

"Please hear me when I say to you that my statements about unifying the parish were not just campaign rhetoric," Broome said, standing on a stage adorned with white and purple flowers and with American, Louisiana and Baton Rouge flags. "I want to be clear that I will be an active opponent to any and all efforts, actions, agendas that serve to divide us, by race, socioeconomic status or geography."

She said she will require members of her administration to participate in Dialogue on Race sessions to open their eyes to the experiences of those who are different from themselves. Broome also pledged to work to eliminate the "ignorant and limiting perspective of our past."

In a Monday evening post on Facebook, Maxine Crump, executive director of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, said, "The DOR Facilitators are ready for the role as soon as Mayor Weston Broome is ready to begin. This will be the first Mayoral Cabinet's Dialogue on Race Original Series in the history of Baton Rouge. We at DORLA are thrilled with this news." 

One of Broome's main messages along the campaign trail was uniting Baton Rouge after the Capital City was ravaged by tragedy over the summer with floods, the shootings of law enforcement officers and the shooting of Alton Sterling, which set off protests. She touched on those issues, and many others, during a speech about community policing, flood recovery, traffic solutions, public transportation, education, jobs and race relations.

Broome said she will personally lead the charge to create more trust between law enforcement officials and those they serve, saying police officers need to be well-trained and well-paid while residents need to know they will be treated fairly and professionally. She pledged to implement the guidelines from President Obama's 21st Century Community Policing report.

Many first responders were present at Monday's ceremony, presenting the colors and representing the Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, Baton Rouge Fire Department, Louisiana State Police, Baton Rouge Constable's Office, LSU Police Department and Baker Police Department.

Broome said she met with Gov. John Bel Edwards — who attended the Monday's inauguration with his wife, Donna — shortly after her election and that he promised to work with her on flood recovery. A flood victim herself, Broome said she will create a position in her administration to oversee Baton Rouge's recovery from the August flood that destroyed tens of thousands of homes.

The mayor-president also said she will convene a panel of experts to find solutions to Baton Rouge's notoriously bad traffic problems.

"Trains, trams and Zipcars must be embraced as a components to a comprehensive transportation agenda that includes all corners of the city," Broome said.

And she threaded a theme of inclusiveness throughout her speech, saying she will evaluate the city-parish's purchasing practices and contracts to ensure that all businesses are given a chance to compete for work with the government.

Broome compared the city-parish to a torn piece of fabric that can be rewoven as "a wonderful, colorful, distinctive and inclusive quilt that will be the new Baton Rouge."

Wearing a fuchsia dress, Broome held hands with her husband, Marvin, as they sprang down the aisle and ascended the stage. Her husband then held the Bible on which she swore her oath of office. Also on the stage were their daughter, two sons and three grandchildren.

A devout Christian, Broome's inauguration featured multiple prayers and several choir performances.

"She is a person of tremendous faith whose life is a testament to what can happen in this city, in this country, when you have faith and you have freedom," said Sylvia Weatherspoon, a WBRZ-TV anchor who was the master of ceremonies. "Amen?"

"Amen!" roared back the crowd, which filled the entire first floor of the auditorium and half of the balcony.

Pastor Jonathan Stockstill of Bethany Church prayed for God to give Broome "supernatural wisdom," to sustain her during her administration and to help heal Baton Rouge. Bishop Charles Wallace of Oasis Christian Church added that "truly this is the day the Lord has made" and thanked God for the new beginning in Baton Rouge.

Broome's personal pastor and a co-chair of her transition team, Star Hill Church pastor Raymond Jetson, closed out the inauguration by praying Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

The "inaugural chorus," made up of dozens of singers, surprised attendees when they marched from the back of the auditorium and to the stage singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Later, they later performed "From a Distance," and soloists Marcelle Ratcliff and Arthur Gremillion sang "The Power of One."

After the inauguration, attendees went to the Hilton Capitol Center downtown for an after-party, where they packed into a ballroom for food, drinks, music and dancing. White roses filled the room, and a guests dug into a huge, white cake that bore the seal of East Baton Rouge.


Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​