PAWTUCKET — All eyes had been on the Shea High School dancers as they performed the quick and intricate steps of the Merengue at Monday night’s inauguration. As he began his second-term address, Mayor Donald Grebien joked that he “will need to move like the Merengue dancers” as he embarks on efforts to lead Pawtucket to a better place.
Grebien, along with the members of the City Council and School Committee, were sworn into office in a ceremony in the auditorium of the Jenks Junior High School/JMW School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Gov. Lincoln Chafee was present to offer his greetings, along with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and State Treasurer Gina Raimondo. Numerous other elected officials also attended, including Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, state Senators Donna Nesslebush and William Conley, state Representatives Raymond Johnston, Mary Duffy Messier, and J. Patrick O’Neill, and the mayors of several surrounding communities including Central Falls, North Providence, East Providence, and Lincoln.
Dressed in a dark gray suit and orange tie, Grebien was sworn in by former Mayor Robert Metivier while first lady Laureen, in a slate gray sequined dress, stood proudly at his side. The couple’s daughter Alexa and son Connor also witnessed the event, as did Grebien’s mother.
Grebien then administered the oath of office to the nine members of the City Council and the seven-member School Committee. As part of the inauguration, the organizational meeting of the City Council was called to order, where members unanimously re-elected District 1 Councilor David P. Moran to another term as council president.
In a nod to the tight economic times, the ceremony was low key but featured stellar musical performances courtesy of the city’s public school students. Of particular note were Tolman High School senior Christopher C. Cintron’s heartfelt rendition of the national anthem and JMW student Kumba Tamba’s soulful delivery of “Hometown Glory by Adele, accompanied by Catherine Grist on piano. A reception of pastry and coffee was held in the school’s gym for guests and members of the public.
In his speech, Grebien said that Pawtucket “still faces challenges but we are starting to head in the right direction.” He noted that the city is looking at a much brighter future now than it did two years ago when he first took office and inherited a $12 million structural deficit. He said that reducing that budget gap required “a lot of tough choices” including lay-offs, a tax increase and making city employees do more with less.
The mayor noted that there is a projected surplus, but said the city still must work to cut spending while at the same time encourage economic development. To that end, he said that several new development projects and businesses have recently come into the city, but stressed that “progress must continue without interruption.” He also spoke about the importance of collaboration between his administration and the City Council and School Committee in driving the city’s positive future.
Grebien noted that “we have a long road ahead of us…the challenges are still there,” but said he also firmly believes that “Pawtucket has a lot of potential.” He pledged to make the city “a better place in the next two years” and to “make it a success.”
In his address, City Council President David P. Moran praised Grebien and his administration for their hard work in keeping the city out of bankruptcy. “I know it hasn’t been easy,” he stated. He also said he looks forward to a continued collaborative effort with school officials, and promised to lead the council in such a way as to be “pro-active and not reactive.”
Citing several economic development projects on the horizon, Moran stated, “There are reasons to be excited by the prospects for this city’s future.”