New Bloomington city council president Jim Sims: “This is a transition of leadership, not a transfer of power.”

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council chose Jim Sims as its new president for 2021 and Sue Sgambelluri as its vice president.

It’s a requirement under state law that the council selects a president and vice president from among its members at the first meeting of the year. Sims served as vice president in 2020.

During the meeting, which was held by video-conference due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Sims took the virtual gavel from Steve Volan, who served as president during 2020. Volan presided over Wednesday’s meeting up to the point of the officer elections.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, rioters who supported U.S. President Donald Trump, despite his election loss, had stormed into the Capitol on the day when Congress was supposed to certify the 2020 Electoral College votes.

The transition between city council presidents was peaceful. Said Sims, “This is a transition of leadership, not a transfer of power.”

Sims is one of three at-large representatives on the nine-member council, which is the legislative branch of the city government. The other six councilmembers represent geographic districts of the city. Sgambelluri represents District 2, which covers the northwest side of town.

The other officer chosen on Wednesday was Matt Flaherty as parliamentarian. Though it’s not required for city councils in Indiana to choose a parliamentarian, it’s written into Bloomington’s local law.  Like Sims, Flaherty is an at-large representative, elected by voters of the whole city. Last year, Isabel Piedmont-Smith served as parliamentarian.

The vote on the new officers was unanimous.

Flaherty and Sgambelluri are two of the four councilmembers who were first elected in 2019, and now have one year of city council service behind them.

In August of 2017, the Democratic Party caucused Sims into the seat left vacant by Timothy Mayer’s resignation. So Sims now has three and a half years of experience serving on the council.

Leading off his remarks to his colleagues after his selection as president, Sims thanked God saying, “I’m thankful for the many blessings received by me and my family.”

Sims gave a nod to history by acknowledging Bloomington’s first Black elected councilmember: “His name was Mr. Paul Swain, Jr.” Sims added about Swain, “He has a pretty decent golf swing.”

Swain served on the city council as an at-large member from 1992 to 1995.

Sims thanked his colleagues “for their affirmation and confidence and support in electing me as leader of this legislative body.”

Sims continued, “My duty is to uphold all legal authority of each member on this council, and to set the operational tone of collaboration, compassion, collegiality, and respect of those we serve, which is our constituents, as well as with the executive branches of our city, and all other elected colleagues across Monroe County.”

Sims closed out his remarks with two quotes. The first was by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “One person can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one person cannot make a team.”

The second quote offered by Sims came from Booker T. Washington: “There are two ways of exerting one’s strength. One is pushing down, and the other is pulling up.”

In her remarks, newly elected vice president Sue Sgambelluri said, “Those of us who have been part of these meetings, you know about the diversity of opinion, the differences in priorities over time. And having been part of that the past year, I am grateful beyond words, for the opportunity to have worked with every single one of you this year.”

She added, “While we may differ on some issues, I think we all have some shared values. We all work to demonstrate professionalism and preparedness, and honest and rigorous dialogue, and a commitment to ensuring that all different viewpoints can be heard, and to being respectful when we disagree.”

Sgambelluri concluded by saying, “And I am honored to serve as part of a leadership team that will help continue those.”

About his selection as parliamentarian, Flaherty said, “I’m excited and happy to be taking on the role of parliamentarian this year.” He added, “I look forward to working with all of you in that capacity and serving on the leadership team with councilmembers Sgambelluri and Sims.”

Sims has served on council in an at-large seat since August 2017. He was chosen that year by the Monroe County Democratic Party caucus to replace Tim Mayer, who resigned.

In 2019, the first year Sims stood for election, there was no citywide election held in November, because there were no citywide contested races. It was Flaherty’s first bid for election to the city council.

Sims and Flaherty were two of the top three at-large vote-getters in the Democratic Party primary that year. Susan Sandberg led with 2,993 votes (21.54 percent), Sims had 2,728 votes (19.63 percent) and Matt Flaherty had 2,564 votes (18.45 percent). Other candidates for seats in the May 7, 2019 Democratic Party primary were Vauhxx Booker, Jean Capler, and Andy Ruff.

Like Flaherty, Sgambelluri was first elected in 2019. She won the District 2 Democratic Party primary with 157 votes (42.09 percent), compared to 142 votes (38.07 percent) for Dorothy Granger and 74 votes (19.84 percent) for Daniel Bingham. In November of 2019, Sgambelluri’s race was contested. She prevailed over Republican Andrew Guenther with 365 votes (63 percent) against Guenther’s 218 (37 percent).

Sims is a past president of the Monroe County chapter of the NAACP and is a member of the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus. He co-founded the Bloomington Black Strategic Alliance (BBSA).

Sims has lived in Bloomington since the mid-1970s. He retired in February 2019 from Indiana University, where he worked as facility manager for the northwestern residence halls. Sims is married to Doris Sims, who will be retiring at the end of January as director of the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND).

Sgambelluri is director of development at the Indiana University College of Arts & Sciences, a position she’s held since 2003. From 1992 to 2003 she was associate director at the IU Career Development Center.

Flaherty graduated from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), studying energy and climate issues. He holds a law degree from IU and previously practiced patent law with Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago.

Flaherty is married to Beth Rosenbarger, planning services manager for the City of Bloomington. Beth and city councilmember Kate Rosenbarger are sisters.

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