OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City’s first openly gay councilman has taken the oath of office.
James Cooper was sworn in Tuesday along with other council members elected in February. Dozens of people waiving rainbow flags joined the LGBT advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma on Monday during Cooper’s celebratory walk to City Hall, where he thanked them for their support.
Cooper has served on Oklahoma City’s transportation board and campaigned on expanding public transit and making the city more pedestrian friendly and accepting.
Cooper was also a teacher at Jefferson Middle School, but had to resign from his teaching position in order to become a councilman.
“We have a city charter that says I could not be a full-time employee in the [Oklahoma City Public School] district and serve on council,” said Cooper. “I spent several weeks agonizing over that decision because my kids are essentially a second family.”
He says he walked everyday from the Paseo District to the Capitol for two weeks during the teacher walkout. That, he says, is where he finalized his decision to sacrifice teaching for public office.
“Everyday I would walk on sidewalks that would buckle and disappear into yards if they existed at all, and during that walk all I could think about were my students,” Cooper told News 4. “I would think about how so many of them don’t have access to mental health, domestic violence services, homelessness services, addiction services. How the sidewalks disappear and buckle and crack in their neighborhood as well.”
Mayor David Holt tweeted that Cooper’s election shows City Hall is for “OUR neighbors who have not always felt welcome.”
Holt has heralded the “new energy” the 37-year-old Cooper and 28-year-old JoBeth Hamon will bring to City Hall. Five of eight council members are 40 or younger, as is the mayor.