Portland mayor calls for 'vigilant watch' on Augusta

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PORTLAND — Mayor Nicholas Mavodones, leading the City Council for a second consecutive year, said Monday that he hopes to capitalize on an electorate energized by the November elections.

Also, in a nod to the tide that swept Republicans into control of state government, Mavodones in his inaugural address said he would re-establish the city’s Legislative Committee to protect the interests and values of the largely Democratic city.

Mavodones, the last appointed mayor before the city switches next year to popular election, delivered his speech during a noontime ceremony. School Board members, meanwhile, were sworn in at 4:30 p.m.

Councilors John Anton, Jill Duson and Edward Suslovic were also sworn in for three-year terms.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman, the council’s only Republican and its most senior member, ceremoniously nominated Mavodones for mayor, hailing his leadership and consensus-building skills.

Leeman was widely believed to have secured enough votes to win the job, but declined the nomination during the council’s Nov. 22 caucus.

Leeman, a breast cancer survivor, said her decision was based on preserving the continuity of leadership, and not on any health concerns.

“Those are wild rumors,” she said of speculation about her health.

Mavodones said the election energized people throughout the political spectrum, and he hopes to capitalize on that interest in local politics.

“It didn’t matter if they supported or opposed the Charter Commission proposals,” said Mavodones, who opposed the switch to a popularly elected mayor who will serve a four-year term and draw a $66,000 annual salary. “There was an enhanced awareness and interest in what is going on here at City Hall.”

Mavodones said he would hold a series of neighborhood forums over the next four months focusing on themes including youth issues, economic development and sustainability, as well as what people like and dislike about the city.

He said he would compile a report based on input from the forums that would guide city through the next several years.

The make-up of the Finance Committee will not change, he said, but the city’s Legislative Committee will be reassembled. The Legislative Committee will be an ad-hoc panel, led by the mayor, that will meet on short notice to address issues as they arise.

“With the deficits in Augusta, it is paramount we maintain a vigilant watch on potential changes that may impact our city and our core values,” he said.

“Without question, we stand to face a number of challenges,” he added. “However, I believe that by working collaboratively we can face any uncertainty head-on.”

Later in the afternoon, Kathleen Snyder, Jaimey Caron and Laurie Davis were sworn into three-year terms on the School Board.

The board elected Snyder as chairwoman and Caron was chosen to lead the  Finance Subcommittee.

Snyder said her top priorities for the next year are developing a comprehensive plan, expanding the use of the multi-year budget and successfully negotiating union contracts.

The board must also work towards fixing or replacing aging elementary school facilities, Snyder said, and develop common core standards for student achievement by 2012 to comply with a federal mandate.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]

Sidebar Elements

Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones, flanked by City Manager Joe Gray, left, City Clerk Linda Cohen and Corporation Counsel Gary Wood, delivers his inaugural address Monday at City Hall. Mavodones is the city’s last mayor to be picked by the City Council.

Portland City Clerk Linda Cohen administers the oath of office to City Councilors Edward Suslovic, left, John Anton and Jill Duson on Monday at City Hall.

Inauguration dining tab: $4,500

PORTLAND —  People who attended the City Council and School Board inaugurations on Monday were treated to $4,500 worth of food and beverages.

The cost: $3,000 for the council’s reception and $1,500 for the School Board’s spread.

City Clerk Linda Cohen said the council’s expense was for food alone, while the school superintendent’s executive secretary said the board’s expense included flowers and invitations.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg provided a list of food that was available at the council’s reception, which was catered by the Barron Center, a city-owned long-term care facility for the elderly.

The menu included shrimp cocktail, orange chicken, spanakopita, fruit, stuffed cherry tomatoes, stuffed eggs cheese and crudites. Punch, water, coffee and tea were also served.

A chocolate fountain was also available for the attendees to sweaten their fruit. Other desserts included brownies, cream puffs and cookies.

— Randy Billings