Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra had a ringside seat to the transfer of power from the administration of Barack Obama to Donald J. Trump on Friday morning.
Vierra was one of a handful of local residents in Washington D.C. to witness the historic inauguration of Trump, who has never held office before.
"I think he tried to reach across the aisle a little bit," said Vierra. "Possibly the Democratic side wouldn't see it that way." He was particularly struck by this line from Trump's Inaugural Address: "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable."
The Ceres mayor was in Washington, D.C. to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Washington Hilton. Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth attended as did Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Vierra said Mike Pence, the new vice president, spoke to the group of mayors.
"The Secret Service was everywhere," said Vierra. "It was a good speech. He just talked about what they were looking forward to getting accomplished.
Vierra texted Congressman Jeff Denham to see about the availability of tickets for him and son Ryan to attend Trump's swearing-in ceremony and snagged them for the first of the standing section directly behind those lucky enough to get seats.
"It was impressive and very interesting. It's amazing to see the efficiency with which they put all the stuff up over the last three days. We've seen security tighten and tighten and tighten. It goes off flawlessly but ... has been very well planned."
Vierra said those who watched the Inauguration festivities on TV likely missed how the crowd booed when Hillary Clinton appeared on the Jumbo-Tron. When Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a vocal critical of Trump spoke, Vierra said he couldn't hear for all the boos and jeers.
"I had to read the teleprompter because people were booing him so much."
The overcast weather in D.C. was mild - in the 40's and no rain - compared to past inaugurations.
"The people here at Denham's office were thanking us for bringing the California weather and I said, actually, I think it's a lot worse in California right now than it is here."
After the Inauguration, Vierra and other officials - including Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow and Atwater City Councilman Brian Raymond - attended a reception at Denham's office before heading over to watch the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
"It was once in a lifetime. I can't even begin to describe it. All the pictures that we took makes it seem like you're a long ways away but you really are not."
Vierra also attended a black-tie reception Thursday evening hosted by the House of Representatives at the Library of Congress where Speaker Paul Ryan appeared and a noted astronaut. We got up close and personal with them."
The Ceres mayor was intrigued to see some historical documents that were pulled out for display, including a handwritten copy of Abraham Lincoln's 1861 Inauguration Address that he read from in the 1860's.
On Friday the mayor commented on Facebook about the media's portrayal of low attendance at the Inauguration. Vierra wrote: "It is such a travesty to hear the media portray the turnout to the Presidential Inaugural Parade as ‘low.' You want to know the real reason it was ‘low'? Because of the immature behavior of the violent protesters the police shut things down tight. It was very difficult to get around the city. Most streets were closed to foot traffic. We gave up after finding it too difficult to maneuver around and the police could not provide us with directions. That's more of the real truth."