Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer listens to the Lewiston High School Chamber Singers after being sworn into office Monday during the inauguration ceremony at the Gendron Franco Center. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Mayor Mark Cayer began his inaugural address Monday by stating that, for a politician, he is not a big fan of speeches.

But, as the mayor bringing Lewiston into a new decade — alongside a young City Council — Cayer promised to ring in an era of positivity and prosperity.

During the 20-minute address, Cayer pitched himself as a leader who can work with everyone, find compromise and avoid partisan politics in local government. He said serving as a local elected official is about service to the community.

“The creators of the Lewiston City Charter made it very clear that partisan politics has no place at the local level,” he said. “I promise our community that I will lead by example by adhering to this directive.”

While Cayer handily won the Nov. 5 election, the 2019 election season was also marked by a young and diverse set of candidates, including Lewiston’s first Somali-American councilor, Safiya Khalid, who was among the leaders sworn in Monday.

Lewiston City Councilors-elect Zachary Pettengill and Safiya Khalid greet attendees to the inauguration ceremony at the Gendron Franco Center on Monday. Khalid is the city’s first Somali-American city councilor. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Three of the seven members of the council are millenials in their 20s. The others are experienced, including Michel Lajoie, a 30-year Lewiston firefighter who was elected council president Monday.

“When I look at the new slate of leaders, I see diversity in age, gender, race and political beliefs,” Cayer said in his address. “This diversity will work to our advantage. If we, as elected officials, take the time to really listen to each other, and if we understand and consider different viewpoints in our decision-making, I promise you that we will move forward policy that will be truly representative of the community and it will be sustainable for future generations.”

Cayer said he plans to be a “champion for all that is good in the community,” but he said officials must also acknowledge the challenges facing Lewiston “and be accountable for them.”

“Lewiston faces an above-average poverty rate, we have a growing and more visible homeless population, some of our community members suffer from untreated mental health and substance abuse problems, we have children who continue to be poisoned by lead paint in some of the oldest multi-family housing stock in the state, we have some troubling crime patterns, and we, like the nation, have the hateful noise on social media coming at us from all directions,” he said.

But, he said Lewiston should not allow itself to be defined by its problems, and a considerable portion of his speech was dedicated to pointing out the landmarks, businesses and institutions that Lewiston is known for.

“Let us all remember that our commitments, our attitudes, our values and our words all count,” he said.

Lewiston City Clerk Cathy Montejo swears-in the new School Committee at the Gendron Franco Center on Monday. From left, Alicia Rea, Megan Parks, Bruce Damon, Monique Roy, Kiernan Majerus-Collins, Tanya Whitlow, Lynnea Hawkins, Ron Potvin and Ryan Donovan. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In the November election, Cayer bested former councilor Tim Lajoie, a Republican who ran mostly on addressing Lewiston’s crime and drug issues.

During the campaign, Cayer focused heavily on economic development, and his address mirrored that.

He said Lewiston’s available mill space should be hosting artisans and entrepreneurs. He wants outside businesses to see the community supporting itself.

“When developers and visitors from around the state see that our community supports and values a strong local economy, those developers and investors will take notice. We must, as a community, make sure that our positive message is heard and that it drowns out any negative voices coming from within,” he said.

The newly elected Lewiston City Councilors, from left, Safiya Khalid, Zachary Pettengill, Alicia Rea, Michel Lajoie, Luke Jensen, Kerryl Clement and Stephanie Gelinas. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

And for tenured businesses in the community, he said, the city should be finding ways to restructure  investments to make development accessible to local investors. He said rather than only offer tax increment financing districts to large, outside developers, Lewiston should “create small TIFs and TIF districts that are designed to enhance our local economy first.”

“When we roll out that red carpet for that potential outside investor or developer looking to relocate to Lewiston, let us not forget to roll it out for the local artisans and entrepreneurs looking to start a new locally grown business,” he said.

Cayer called the downtown transformation plan, the comprehensive effort put in motion in 2019 to revitalize the Tree Streets neighborhood, “an excellent start at improving our community well-being, and a great example of investing in ourselves.”

“But we must remember that community well-being goes beyond the Tree Streets,” he said. “Every neighborhood in our community has its strengths and challenges.”

“We (all of us on stage tonight) ask you to join us, to share your ideas, to contribute your talents and to help us create a rich, diverse, inviting, exciting and prosperous future for the city of Lewiston,” Cayer said.

Former Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier delivers her farewell address Monday during the inauguration ceremony in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Cayer also said he plans to continue efforts that have gone forward during former Mayor Kristen Cloutier’s abbreviated term as mayor, including her work to address housing, and in particular, lead poisoning.

During her farewell address, Cloutier said she was proud to lead overdue discussions on safe and affordable housing and lead poisoning. During her term, the city created a rental registration system for multi-family properties, began inspecting units rented through General Assistance and created a Housing Committee.

She said she plans to continue her work to bolster relations with the city’s immigrant and refugee population, and create a “Lewiston where everyone is valued and represented.”

After six years as councilor, council president and then mayor, Cloutier said she has “given this city, my hometown, 100% of myself.”

Monday’s inauguration was also marked by musical performances by the Lewiston High School chamber singers and an original poem by Joao Victor, a 2019 Lewiston High School graduate who was named Lewiston’s first poet laureate.

The School Committee elected Monique Roy to serve as its chairwoman.

The invocation Monday was given jointly by Deacon Francis Daggett, of Prince of Peace Parish; Rabbi Sruli Dresdner, of Temple Shalom; and Imam Saleh Mahamud, of Islamic Center of Lewiston.

Sruli pointed out that here, a Deacon, Rabbi and Imam, who have previously expressed solidarity with each other following national hate crime incidents, were supporting local political leaders in a show of unity.

Lewiston Youth Poet Laureate Joao Victor recites an original poem about an older woman who always has a book open during the inauguration ceremony in Lewiston on Monday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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