RIVERBANK -- More than 200 people packed the Community Center as Virginia Madueño was sworn in as mayor Monday night. They cheered, clapped and rose to their feet in a standing ovation at the end of the ceremony.
"I am humbled and grateful to assume the role of mayor of this great city of Riverbank," Madueño said to the audience. "I pledge to my fellow council members to work cooperatively in the spirit of moving our city forward."
City Clerk Linda Abid-Cummings said the turnout was the largest for an oath of office ceremony for a mayor in her 13 years with the city.
These ceremonies usually are held in the council chambers, which seats a few dozen.
This could mark a new start for a City Council that has weathered some rough times in the past year, with two mayors resigning to take jobs out of the area and a failed recall attempt against Councilman Dave White and his grandson and fellow council member, Jesse James White.
This summer, the county civil grand jury called for Jesse James White to resign because he wasn't a registered voter when he became a council candidate in November 2008. He's still on the council because the city says it doesn't have the authority to remove him.
Also, the council has deadlocked on raising sewer rates, with the Whites opposing the measure despite city officials saying the increases are needed, in part, to pay for a state-mandated inspection and management plan for the sewer lines and avoid state fines.
"I hope and pray it is definitely a new era," Madueño said in an interview after the meeting.
She was the top vote-getter among six candidates in the Nov. 3 election, garnering nearly 41 percent of the vote. Dave White, who has served on the council 18 of the past 25 years, finished third, with 13.6 percent of the vote in an occasionally bruising campaign.
Madueño, who owns a public relations firm, was appointed to the council and served March 2005 to November 2008. She lost the November 2008 mayor's race to incumbent Chris Crifasi.
But Crifasi resigned in January to take a job in the Bay Area. The council then appointed Councilman David I. White as mayor, but he resigned in May to take a job in San Diego.
The council had been at four members for months until Monday. Madueño, 44, will serve the remaining three years of Crifasi's term.
Monday's meeting was full of ceremony, with a six-man honor guard from the Modesto chapter of the American GI Forum leading the meeting in the pledge of allegiance and Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova administering the oath of office to Madueño.
Madueño addressed the audience in a brief speech after being sworn in and then repeated her remarks in Spanish, in honor of her Mexican immigrant parents, who were in the audience.
Jesse James White was sick and missed the meeting, but the remaining council members -- Dave White, Sandra Benitez and Danny Fielder -- welcomed Madueño to the council.
White's remark, "I plan on working with her as much as she'll let me," was greeted with "Oh, Dave," and "Come off it!" from the audience.
Madueño asked the audience to treat White with respect.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.