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Jalbert, Fitzgerald take reins in South Portland

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Jalbert, Fitzgerald take reins in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — In ceremonies lasting about 40 minutes Monday, City Councilor Jerry Jalbert was unanimously elected to a one-year term as mayor, replacing Councilor Tom Blake.

Blake and Councilor Maxine Beecher were also sworn in to new, three-year terms as at-large councilors.

Following the City Council meeting, School Board members unanimously elected Tappan Fitzgerald Jr. the board chairman and Karen Callahan vice chairwoman.

Fitzgerald, who replaces Rick Carter, was elected to his second, one-year term as chairman.

Carter, Mary House and Sara Goldberg were sworn in to new, three-year terms before the leadership votes were made. The School Board ceremonies, with Fitzgerald's remarks, took about five minutes.

Unlike last year, when Blake set out five goals, including keeping the property tax increase around 1 percent and getting voter approval for the new municipal services facility for the Public Works, Transportation, and Parks and Recreation departments, Jalbert proposed no concrete municipal objectives.

Taking a cue from the Rev. Thomas Frey of Peoples United Methodist Church, who delivered the invocation, Jalbert emphasized a return to civility when considering contentious issues.

“One of my main goals for the upcoming year is to change the divisiveness to respect for a difference of our ideas," Jalbert said. "For us to grow as people we need to at least consider the ideas of others.”

He also quoted anthropologist Margaret Mead and concluded by quoting evangelist Robert Schuller.

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Jalbert asked.

Blake was presented with an engraved letter opener by Jalbert and the council in thanks for his service as mayor. Jalbert noted his relationship with Blake had been strained over the last year, but said they would continue to work together in the future.

Jalbert also presented the keys to the city to Birger and Linda Johnson, Sunset Park residents who previously served on the City Council and in the state Legislature.

In 1982, Linda Johnson became the first woman elected to the City Council. She also served as mayor in 1986.

Birger Johnson, who was a minister at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, served two terms as a city councilor and in the Legislature in the late 1990s. He was also chaplain at the Maine Youth Center.

The most emotional presentation came from Jalbert's granddaughter, Hailey Betts, 15, of Bucksport.

Betts' friend, Taylor Darveau was killed in an Oct. 15 traffic accident in Bucksport, riding in a car driven by a 16-year-old who had an intermediate license.

Standing with Darveau's younger brother, Devin, 14, Betts made a tearful plea for preventing drivers with intermediate licenses from driving with passengers.

Included in her efforts with the Darveau family are mandating pink window stickers to identify a car driven by someone with an intermediate license. A similar law was recently passed in New Jersey.

State Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, attended the inauguration and said legislative efforts are unlikely in the second half of the current session this winter. He promised to work to strengthen the licensing laws if re-elected in 2014.

Fitzgerald, who preceded Carter as School Board chairman in 2012, said he expects the 2015 fiscal year budget deliberations to be difficult, but looks forward to working with the council and the School Board.

"When push comes to shove," he said, "we will get it done."

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.