Strimling promises inclusion as Portland’s new mayor

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PORTLAND — What began as a kitchen table conversation culminated with a speech at Ocean Gateway Terminal as Mayor Ethan Strimling took office Monday.

Strimling, the second elected mayor in the city in 90 years, called for change and pledged to “give everyone who wants it a place at the table.”

The 15-minute speech came about seven hours after Strimling was sworn in and presided over his first two City Council meetings. Also sworn in were new Councilors Belinda Ray, of District 1, Spencer Thibodeau, of District 2, and at-large Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr., who is starting his seventh term.

“You will have a voice at the table. You won’t get everything you want, but neither will those who oppose you,” Strimling said as he vowed to make city housing more affordable, create city-wide pre-kindergarten classes and continue to create a “viable, sustainable economy.”

Strimling, who finished second in 2011 to former Mayor Michael Brennan, said last month he had not planned on a second mayoral run, but was contacted in late July by Mavodones, as he was returning from a cross-country drive.

“Right as I pulled into my driveway, I got a call from Nick saying we would like to talk about the mayor’s race,” Strimling said.

Strimling, Mavodones and Councilor Ed Suslovic met in Suslovic’s kitchen where the two councilors asked Strimling to consider running. Suslovic had taken out nomination papers to run against Brennan, but was willing to step aside.

“I needed to know the call for change was more than just a couple of frustrated councilors,” Strimling said. After surveying what other support he might garner, he announced his candidacy about three weeks later. It was a week before the deadline for submitting nomination papers.

Strimling got 51 percent of the vote while defeating Brennan and Tom MacMillan, eliminating any need for a runoff through the ranked choice system used in mayoral elections.

On Monday, Strimling reflected on the coalition of elected officials, business owners and the immigrant communities that supported his candidacy.

“It was built to transform a city and it will,” he vowed.

Strimling opened his remarks by thanking Brennan for his four-year tenure and his dedication to the city.

Brennan and departed Councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue were also lauded in the inauguration ceremony at City Hall earlier in the day.

Councilor Justin Costa said he got to know Brennan before he first ran for School Board almost a decade ago.

“There are few people I look more to as a role model than Michael,” he said. “Politics can be a tough business, many of us make tremendous sacrifices. The reason we do is, we believe we can make a difference.”

Councilor Jon Hinck said he first met Marshall about a decade ago when both were campaigning. Now an at-large councilor, Hinck noted he lives in District 2, served by Marshall for nine years.

“I knew something was happening when people had so many nice things to say about Dave,” Hinck said. “He has always been attuned to the people who do not gravitate to power.”

Mavodones, the councilor with the longest tenure, said Donoghue taught him about urban planning.

“He is incredibly smart and incredibly principled,” Mavodones said.

After Strimling, Mavodones, Ray and Thibodeau were sworn in, councilors approved revised meeting rules that advance the start of meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month to 5 p.m. Beginning with the next meeting on Dec. 21, after a 30-minute dinner break at 6:30 p.m., the public will be allowed three minutes of comment on items that are not on the agenda before councilors continue on the evening agenda. A council vote will be required to extend meetings beyond 10 p.m.

If needed, council workshops will be held on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at 5 p.m.

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

Mayor Ethan Strimling makes a 15-minute inaugural speech at Ocean Gateway Terminal on Monday night. “I will seek to give everyone who wants it a place at the table,” he vowed.From left, Councilors Spencer Thibodeau, Belinda Ray and Nick Mavodones are sworn in Monday by Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones.District 2 Councilor Spencer Thibodeau and District 1 Councilor Belinda Ray vote Monday during the first City Council meeting of their tenures.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.