By MIKE CHAIKEN
Before a jam-packed Bristol Eastern High School auditorium, the city’s newest elected officials were sworn into office.
Although the swearing-in of the new city council, city treasurer, and Board of Assessment Appeals were on the evening’s agenda, the official installation of Ellen Zoppo-Sassu as the new mayor—and the first female mayor in the history of the city—was the keystone event of the evening.
As part of the evening, Zoppo-Sassu—the Democrat who defeated Republican incumbent Ken Cockayne on Election Day—offered up her inaugural address.
“(T)oday is a new day for Bristol,” said the new mayor. “But more important than noting that I am the first of what I hope to be many female mayors, more important than the changing of the guard, is changing the tone of civil discourse. We can disagree without being disagreeable.”
Zoppo-Sassu’s inaugural comments follow a bruising and contentious campaign season, earmarked by her predecessor’s censure by the city council twice for sexual harassment and a feud between Cockayne and fellow Republican city councilor (and second cousin) Jodi Zils-Gagne and her husband Steve—which led to one of the council’s censures.
“Everyone who has the best interest of Bristol is welcome at the table, to speak their mind at city meetings, and will be considered for volunteer service on boards and commissions,” said Zoppo-Sassu in her comments. “I believe diversity in background and in opinion can be our greatest strength.”
“I believe that how we govern, and what we prioritize, should reflect our core values as a community,” said Zoppo-Sassu.
Among the goals set forth by Zoppo-Sassu are: “We want Bristol to be a place where young, educated people want to live, work, and raise their families… We want Bristol to be a place where new college graduates choose to return home… We want Bristol to be a welcoming, community driven gathering place where our neighbors become our friends. … We want Bristol to partner with the right private development so that our downtown is vibrant,” said Zoppo-Sassu.
Although an olive branch was extended in some of her speech, Zoppo-Sassu also took a swipe at Cockayne’s policy of tearing down blighted buildings.
“I am sure that it is not lost on many of us that the wrecking ball of demolition and the dozens of boarded up homes are a stark contrast to the homelessness issue that has been swept under the rug in Bristol for too long,” said the new mayor. “The list of social service needs — which includes chronic homelessness and/or waiting lists for housing assistance– are all quality of life issues that this administration will work to address through policy.”
As one of her first acts after being inaugurated, the city’s first mayor also appointed the city’s first deputy mayor. Councilor Mary Fortier, said Zoppo-Sassu, will serve the role as her stand-in when necessary for the next three months.
Other officials taking the oath of office last Monday were:
City Council District 1
City Council District 2
City Council District 3
Board of Assessment Appeals
Mary Alford, Thomas Ragaini, and Shirley Salvatore
PHOTOS by JANELLE MORELLI