Leaders at inauguration: Pawtucket will show its ‘warrior mentality’

Leaders at inauguration: Pawtucket will show its ‘warrior mentality’

Pawtucket’s mayor, City Council and School Committee were sworn in on Monday night during ceremonies at Tolman High School. As his family watches, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien is sworn in by Sen. Jack Reed, left, on Monday night. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

PAWTUCKET – Leaders at Monday’s city inauguration spoke in bold – and perhaps even defiant – terms.

This city won’t be kept down, said its newly sworn-in leaders, nor will it accept defeat, even in the face of discouraging outcomes largely beyond their control in 2018.

“I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me,” sang the combined Tolman High and Shea High School Chorus, performing “This is Me” under the direction of Michael Raymond and Anne Lagace. “... I am brave, I am bruised. I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.”

City Council President David Moran referenced a quote from Roy Barrios, a player for the undefeated State Champion Tolman High soccer team, “This is for all our people. We’re a small city but we’re big talent,” and another from Salim Chakhsi, “So many times in the past, we’ve been underdogs … this was our year.”

“Our mindsets need to be the same as the Tolman soccer team,” said Moran. “We are a city of great talent and potential, and we nobly take on the role as underdog. It’s time to forge ahead and become and act like the favorite, and we can and will do that.”

Mayor Donald Grebien, administered the oath of office alongside his wife, Laureen, and children, Connor and Alexa, said he is more sure today than he’s ever been that Pawtucket is heading in the right direction and that its best days are ahead, despite all that happened to the city last year. He said he’s filled with the optimism and enthusiasm he had on his first day in office eight years ago.

“Just imagine where our city will be in the years to come,” he said.

Leaders on Monday agreed that there’s a lot of work to be done, but Pawtucket is up to the task of coming back.

The city absorbed a serious blow in 2018 with the announced departure of the Pawtucket Red Sox, said the mayor, but officials are working with the state on a replacement and he said he can guarantee that the city will be home to quality professional sports, entertainment and recreation for decades to come. There are “exciting prospects” for re-use of McCoy Stadium, he added.

Sworn in for new terms in office at Tolman High School Monday were:

• Grebien as mayor.

• David Moran, Mark Wildenhain, John Barry III, Terrence Mercer, Meghan Kallman, Timothy Rudd Jr., Michael Araujo, Elena Vasquez and Albert Vitali Jr. as City Council members.

• And Gerard Charbonneau, Joanne Bonollo, Erin Dube, Kimberly Grant, Joseph Knight, Stephen Larbi and Roberto Moreno as School Committee members.

Moran, after thanking Barry for his nomination to remain council president and President Pro Tempore Mercer for seconding the nomination, said he sees a silver lining in the loss of the PawSox.

“Sometimes adversity makes us stronger in the long run, and how we deal with it will determine our future fate,” he said. He applauded Grebien for his efforts to retain the team, saying the mayor exhibited passion and persistence, “and even though they decided to leave, he never put his head down and kept his chin up and continues to look forward, not backward, and that is a sign of leadership.”

This city “has a warrior mentality in that we will fight for what we believe in until the bitter end and even if we lose, we move on to the next battle,” said Moran. “We are a resilient, proud and resourceful city and we will be fine,” he said.

He implored state leaders to work to develop a comprehensive economic development plan and assistance package for the city and its downtown and find a suitable use for McCoy.

“Frankly, I think we deserve it based on how that entire situation unfolded,” he said.

On the future of city-based Hasbro, Moran asked Gov. Gina Raimondo and state leaders to work with the city to find a way to keep the company in Pawtucket, saying it would be a devastating blow to lose the toymaker.

“I do not think the state would like to be 0 for 2 while up at the plate for Pawtucket,” he said. “That is not a great batting average.”

Moran said local leaders will continue to do their part to move the city forward by creating a place that attracts development and educates its students. The goal, he said, is to make Pawtucket a better place to live both now and in the future. He called for unity as leaders pursue this common goal.

The city continues to take the right steps toward renewed prosperity by repaving roads, upgrading schools and investing in public safety, said Moran.

Grebien thanked voters for putting their trust in the leaders on stage Monday. He promised to continue with a focus on honesty and transparency, economic development, education, and sound finances, all showing real progress and results.

He pointed to successes such as repaving half of all local roadways, the city’s flourishing craft beer scene and future growth from a planned commuter rail station.

He also noted the loss of Memorial Hospital in illustrating the need to maintain quality of life, including the needed return of emergency room services. In the case of Hasbro, the company will ultimately make its own decision on its future, he said, but the city is committed to doing everything possible to keep it here.

Moran said the council will work to attract new small businesses to Pawtucket, as those are the backbone of the community and will entice larger companies to come. The commuter rail station will also be a boon to the city, he said.

The council’s first order of business in 2019, said Moran, is to analyze the current transfer station issue and jointly recommend a strategy going forward.

Also speaking Monday were Lieutenant Gov. Daniel McKee, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. Reed administered the oath of office to Grebien, and Grebien then did the same for the council and school board. Former city employee David Clemente visited from Florida to serve as master of ceremonies, and the Pawtucket Police Honor Guard and Tolman Marine JROTC served. Jayleen DoCoutu and Le’Asia Souza of the Shea High School Glee Club performed the National Anthem. Officials recognized five previous elected leaders, Mary Bray, Lorenzo Tetreault, Thomas Hodge, Peter Kilmartin and Raymond Spooner.

A post-inauguration reception was held at the Revel Factory across the river.

Members of the Pawtucket City Council wait to be sworn in during ceremonies at Tolman High School on Monday night.