Outgoing Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte, right, presents his successor, Jason Levesque, with an oversized gavel prior to Levesque being sworn into office during Monday night’s inauguration ceremony at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Auburn’s new mayor, Jason Levesque, has immediate plans for his tenure.
The first, which he outlined after being sworn in during Monday’s inaugural ceremony, is to find ways to make sure the issue of merging Lewiston and Auburn is never brought up again.
He said his “first order of business” will be to ask city officials and the county’s legislative delegation “to look at how we can make sure we don’t have to deal with the uncertainty of a merger” again.
But, he also laid out immediate plans Monday for creating an economic advisory committee to promote Auburn, as well as a task force to create a unified five-year strategic plan for the city.
He called it a “new chapter in Auburn’s bright future.”
The ceremony Monday marked the next two years in Auburn’s government, with the new City Council and School Committee sworn in alongside Levesque.
It was also the end of an era for some. There was a high turnover rate in Auburn’s ranks this year, with four out of seven city councilors and School Committee members replaced.
Mayor Jonathan LaBonte handed over the reins to Levesque after an emotional speech, in which he said the “beauty of Auburn is that it’s one big community.”
The past six years, he said, have been highlighted the most by neighborhood events that show the community coming together.
There were also some laughs. Before Levesque was sworn in, LaBonte handed him a “mayor starter kit,” that included a copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order” and an oversized gavel. He told all the elected officials to prepare for “thankless hours.”
City Manager Peter Crichton, who addressed the outgoing city officials, also presented a gift for LaBonte – a “captain’s chair,” which he said would be a new tradition in Auburn.
During his remarks, Levesque said he values the advice of LaBonte, and announced that he’s appointed LaBonte chairman of a new committee that will plan a major event in 2019 to mark the 150th anniversary of the city.
Levesque said he believes Auburn has the “ingredients to be a world-class destination.” He said Auburn should focus efforts to attract new businesses and grow existing ones, while promoting city assets such as recreation and schools.
He looked at the new city leadership and said they will work to represent the people who elected them.
“We dedicate our term to represent your wishes,” he said.
He urged the School Committee to take a hard look at planning the new Edward Little High School, saying the city “should build something that does not exist in Maine or New England.”
It was a theme he returned to multiple times during the speech — that he wants Auburn to be recognized “throughout the Northeast.”
He also circled back to the merger topic, stating that Auburn and its “sister city” of Lewiston can work together to provide services for both cities. Many Lewiston officials were also in attendance, including Mayor Bob Macdonald and City Administrator Ed Barrett.
Tom Kendall, re-elected to the School Committee, was selected to remain chairman. In his remarks, he said the future leaders of the city “are in our schools now.” He also said Auburn has a great opportunity with the new high school.
The event held at Central Maine Community College featured an invocation by Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of the Temple Shalom Synagogue Center, as well as two performances by the Edward Little High School A Cappella Choir.
Kendall and Levesque seemed to agree that the future is now. At the end of his address, Levesque repeated the city slogan: “No steps back.”
Members of the Auburn school committee are sworn in by City Clerk Susan Clements-Dallaire, right, during Monday night’s inauguration ceremony at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Members of the Auburn city council are sworn in by City Clerk Susan Clements-Dallaire, right, during Monday night’s inauguration ceremony at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Auburn City Council:
At-large: David Young, Belinda Gerry
Ward 1: Holly Lasagna
Ward 2: Robert Hayes
Ward 3: Andrew Titus
Ward 4: Alfreda Fournier
Ward 5: Leroy Walker
Auburn School Committee:
At large: Faith Fontaine, Patricia Gautier
Ward 1: Robert Mennealy
Ward 2: Bonnie Hayes
Ward 3: Tom Kendall
Ward 4: Jenna Scrivner
Ward 5: Daniel Poisson