At last night's Westbrook City Inauguration, the only exception to the event's mood of consensus and unanimity was when the sly iconoclast, City Councilor Ed Symbol (R-Ward 3), muttered "present" instead of "here" like all the other City Councilors during roll call. Westbrook politics can only become more contentious.
The event officially kicked off at 7:37p, when the members-elect of the School Board (sans Alex Stone), City Council, the Mayor's Office, and the City Clerk's office entered the high school auditorium from the side entrance and strolled across the front of the stage to take their seats. Before the officials' tardy entry, the Westbrook City Band had entertained the sparse crowd.
Each member had what appeared to be a red carnation (courtesy of Harmon's & Barton's Florist, according to the evening's program) pinned to their left breasts and they took their seats at a horseshoe-shaped dais festooned with a cloth featuring numerous prints of the American flag and draped with red, white, and blue banners. City Clerk Barbara Hawkes, who was retiring that very day and to whom the inauguration program was dedicated, initiated the Pledge of Allegience, and the City Band followed with a rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Then, after an invocation by Edward DeLong, the reverend of the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church, Barbara Hawkes, decked out in her signature pink, administered the oaths of offices to the members of the School Board and City Council. (To those who argue the burden of City Councilors is light, what other office has to swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the Consitution of the State of Maine, and the laws of this city?) Anway, after these formalities, it was time to get down to business.
When it was time to elect a council president, Councilor Drew Gattine (D-Ward 2) quickly nominated Councilor Brendan Rielly (D-Ward 1). Councilor Suzanne Joyce (D-Ward 5) leapt to second Gattine's nomination, and the City Council followed suit by voting unanimously to re-appoint Rielly as council president. It was then back to the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony when Al Hawkes, husband of City Clerk Barbara and musician extraordinaire, led everyone in the singing of "God Bless America," accompanied by the City Band. Mayor-elect Bruce Chuluda (R) was introduced, repeated his oath, and dug into the bully pulpit.
Mayor Chuluda, a bearish man in appearance, is not known for his invigorating oratory. Nevertheless, he gave a solid speech that highlighted his administration's successes (the continued revitalization of Westbrook's downtown, the development of the business park on Saco Street, and IDEXX's expansion) and his administration's plans for the future (continue providing adequate public services, while shrinking government; balance economic growth with the preservation of Westbrook's community; and provide affordable housing in conjunction with organizations such as the Westbrook Housing Authority and the People's Regional Opportunity Program (PROP). After reading his laundry lists of accomplishments and plans for the future, the mayor promised both a continuation and expansion of some events he hosts to make city government more accessible to its citizens.
First, Mayor Chuluda announced he will continue opening his office to residents on the first Saturday of the month from 9a-12p. Starting in February, though, the mayor said he will be accompanied on those Saturday mornings by an employee from the city's finance department, who will be available for anyone unable to conduct business during the week. Moreover, the Mayor said he would continue hosting his monthly call-in television show on the last Thursday of the month. And, finally, the Mayor announced he will be scheduling regular ward meetings as yet another way for residents of Westbrook to attract the attention of himself and the government he administers. He did not flesh out the details of the ward meetings, but he did say information would be forthcoming. And for the record, Chuluda did refer to the occasionally contentious relationship between his administration and the City Council early in his speech, but cast it aside.
To close the ceremony, City Clerk Hawkes administered the oath of her successor Lynda Adams, the first Democratic City Clerk Westbrook has elected in at least fifty-two years (well, sort of: Adams lost in the Republican primary to Deborah Frank last year, switched parties, and then defeated Frank as a Democrat in November). Westbrook's next mayor, I mean Westbrook's Council President, Brendan Rielly, conducted a mercifully brief (about fifteen minutes) City Council meeting, and most everyone rushed to the high school cafeteria to munch on the refreshments prepared by the culinary students at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center (WRVC). The entire event lasted about seventy minutes.
- John C.L. Morgan