New South Portland mayor pushes for green activism

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The new mayor is urging her fellow city councilors to create an activist, environmentally conscious city government.

Councilor Patti Smith was unanimously elected mayor at a special meeting of the City Council on Monday. She replaces Rosemarie De Angelis, who continues as a city councilor.

Smith asked other councilors to be courageous and active advocates for the residents of South Portland, and told them to imagine a greener city, one that champions alternative transportation, bans plastic and paper shopping bags, operates a fleet of hybrid vehicles and expands community and personal gardening.

“These are not extreme ideas,” she said. “They are happening elsewhere in the U.S. where towns and cities with courage and foresight are taking action. I ask that we imagine, and take action.”

Smith has been on the council for three years, and has lived in South Portland for six. She said that sitting next to longtime residents on the council, she felt like an acorn among oaks, but promised that her dedication to the city is as strong as anyone’s.

“During my short residency in South Portland, I’ve plugged into this community,” she said. “This is my home. You are my neighbors, my friends and my colleagues.”

Smith thanked the city staff, residents, small business owners and others for contributing to making the city a place she’s happy to call home. She also thanked her partner, Susan, whom she said she hoped to one day legally marry, drawing applause from the audience.

The new mayor said she was sure her term would be full of “opportunities and challenges that invite us to lead,” and said she hopes councilors will focus on how they work together, and that South Portland would be a model for other cities.

“When we come together with an open heart, a better city is not only our goal, but our destiny,” she said.

In her first term, Smith was an advocate for open space in the city, and supported the launch of South Portland Buy Local. Recently, she has pushed for a revision of the city’s policy of providing full health insurance benefits to city councilors – a benefit she doesn’t take.

Before passing the gavel, De Angelis said she counted the creation of the South Portland Farmers Market, the tobacco-free parks and beaches initiative and community gardens among the city’s successes during her term.

She thanked the city staff, School Board and her fellow councilors for their support, and gave a ringing endorsement of Smith.

“I am thrilled that Councilor Smith will be our next mayor, and I look forward to passing the gavel to her,” De Angelis said. “The caliber of her work is beyond reproach and her experience, intellect and background will only benefit the city.”

Before the mayoral election, Smith and Councilors Thomas Coward and Jerry Jalbert took their oaths of office to begin new three-year terms. All three won uncontested elections in November.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

Sidebar Elements

Councilor Jerry Jalbert, Mayor Patti Smith and Councilor Tom Coward take the oath of office from City Clerk Susan Mooney at South Portland City Hall Monday, Dec. 5.

Fitzgerald, Gilboy lead South Portland School Board

SOUTH PORTLAND — Immediately following the City Council inauguration and the election of Mayor Patti Smith on Monday, the School Board inaugurated its new members and chose Tappan Fitzgerald as its chairman.

Fitzgerald said the next year will be full of challenges, and will likely be the toughest budget year for South Portland schools in a long time.

But he remained optimistic.

“In South Portland, we do it right and we get it done,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s that Red Riot pride that continues to allow us to move forward together.”

James Gilboy was unanimously elected vice chairman. Members commended outgoing Chairman Ralph Baxter Jr. on his 13 years of service.

Fitzgerald and newcomer Jeffrey Selser will serve three-year terms. Board member Karen Callaghan was also scheduled to be inaugurated, but was not present.

Callaghan, who works at the South Portland library, is suing the city over a personnel policy that bars city employees from running for elected office.

— Mario Moretto