TARPON SPRINGS — With his family standing by his side and his right hand raised, David O. Archie made history Tuesday night when he was sworn in as the city's mayor.
And for the quaint city whose identity is steeped in Greek tradition and heritage, becoming the first Pinellas County municipality to elect a black mayor may speak to the type of community that's Tarpon Springs.
"I've always said that the citizens of Tarpon are progressive, and they look at you for what you can bring and not for the color of your skin and this just proves that," Archie, 56, said. "I would have thought in 2010, there would have been others (black mayors elected in the county)."
Glen A. Davis, 55, who in 1986 became the first black person elected to Tarpon Springs' commission, said Archie's election "speaks volumes about the community."
"You look at the African-American community, we are a very small part of the city," Davis said. "But the city is willing to open up not only to the Greeks, to Anglo-Americans but now to African-Americans as well. The city has really set the pace or the stage for other cities in the county to look at what Tarpon has done."
Former Mayor Beverley Billiris agreed.
"It shows growth for our community and the diversity of our community," she said. "(David Archie) will be a great leader and show fine leadership as he has done in the past."
Archie won 57 percent of the votes cast, in a community where blacks make up just 6.2 percent of the 23,113 residents, according to an estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Archie was a commissioner from 1996-2001 and had to step down due to term limits. He was re-elected in March 2002 and served until 2008, when he again stepped aside due to term limits.
"It's beautiful," Elizabeth Archie, 91, said of her son being elected. "Just to think, I have a son that's mayor of a city that never had an American black as mayor. I'm proud of him."
Davis said Tarpon Springs has always been different. He said during integration, when there were fights between the races at schools in other parts of Pinellas County, the opposite was happing in the northernmost part of the county.
"At Tarpon High, we didn't have any of that," Davis said. "The community has always been a close-knit community."
Commissioner Chris Alahouzos, 59, concurred.
"He has been a friend for me since high school," Alahouzos said of Archie. "I know how much he loves Tarpon Springs. He has the love for the city and the people as well. He will be a good mayor and will promote teamwork."
News research Carolyn Edds contributed to this article. Demorris A. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174