LEWISTON — In his first address as mayor, Carl Sheline made economic development his clear focus, immediately establishing a committee tasked with ramping up investment in the city.

Sheline, who ran for public office for the first time, said he wants to build upon the “unshakable” faith of Lewiston residents — along with hints of optimism from the last two years — and turn it into action.

“If we want to move our economy forward, we need to make our city business friendly and encourage private investment,” he said in the speech.

Sheline said he recently spoke to a local business owner about investment in Lewiston. When Sheline told him that Lewiston “is turning a corner,” he replied back, “Carl we’ve been turning a corner for the past 10 years.”

“Lewiston has changed so much, but his point is well taken,” Sheline said. “We need clear direction and decisive action to ensure our economic future.”

After new city leaders were sworn into office at the Gendron Franco Center on Monday, Sheline announced the formation of the new committee, which he said will begin work immediately.

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He told the Sun Journal that the committee will be a “top down” look with “everything on the table.”

In his address Monday, he said that will likely include discussions on how to encourage businesses or entrepreneurs to choose Lewiston and attract new private investment in the city. For city government, he said, it could mean streamlining the permit process, or examining the code and zoning ordinances.

“We need to point the ship in the right direction and hit the gas,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a silver bullet, but probably a collection of things we do to improve.”

The committee will be co-chaired by longtime Lewiston resident Mark Lee, partner at Harriman Associates, an architectural and engineering firm.

The 16-member committee includes officials from large institutions such as Central Maine Medical Center, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, and Geiger promotional products company, as well as restaurant owners Jules Patry, and downtown property owners including Adilah Mohammed.

Lee told the Sun Journal that he doesn’t want the committee to simply be an exercise to come up with ideas.

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“It needs to be actionable, and translate into real change,” he said. “We want to leverage the opportunities we have to really make meaningful change in the city.”

Lee said the committee could end up looking at issues such as education, workforce training and affordable housing. With real estate values so high in southern Maine and other areas of the state, he said it could be “fortuitous timing” with “real opportunity for investment in Lewiston.”

Sheline said announcing the committee on inauguration night “speaks to the urgency in which we need to move forward.”

He said the committee will likely hold public listening sessions in April through October, followed by “a census of the progress in December.”

Sheline said he knocked on some 2,000 doors while campaigning, and was struck by the “incredible diversity” of the city, while holding a “unifying theme of pride of place.”

“Over the past 200 years Lewiston overcame adversity at every turn and that process has yielded a strong sense of shared identity for all of us,” he said. “Each one of us cares about Lewiston and we will pour that energy into positive change for this city. We will take our belief in Lewiston and turn it into action.”

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In his farewell address, outgoing Mayor Mark Cayer “called it a day” in public service after 12 years in various roles in Lewiston. He said he always tried to lead in way that “brought stability, civility and reasonable responses.”

After a single two-year term as mayor, he said he believes the incoming council can continue to make progress in addressing poverty, reducing lead poisoning and attracting developers. His farewell was met with a standing ovation from the limited crowd.

The City Council and the School Committee elected leaders Monday, with Lee Clement becoming council president and Bruce Damon elected chairman of the committee. Both offered inaugural remarks relating to the challenges of the previous two-year term amidst the pandemic.

Clement said Lewiston must continue to improve public safety, create sustainable economic development and make sure schools are producing “top-quality graduates.”

Due to COVID-19 precautions, Monday’s event was livestreamed to the general public with in-person attendance limited to the families of officials. A number of performances planned for the event were removed from the agenda or delivered remotely due to COVID-19 precautions.

In a statement Monday, Gov. Janet Mills congratulated Sheline on the inauguration.

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“You should be honored that the people of Lewiston selected you and your vision to guide the city during a time of exceptional challenges, but also exciting opportunities,” she said. “As mayor, you will lead a diverse and rapidly growing city on such important issues and economic development, housing, and education. I know you will take this responsibility seriously, using your role to improve the lives and livelihoods of the fine people of Lewiston.”

Sheline, 42, has lived and raised his children in Lewiston for over a decade. He is co-manager of MUNKA Coworking, a shared working space at 213 Lisbon St. in Lewiston.

The 2022-2024 officials sworn in Monday were:

Mayor: Carl Sheline

City Council: Linda Scott, Ward 1; Robert McCarthy, Ward 2; Scott Harriman, Ward 3; Ricky LaChapelle, Ward 4; Laurier Pease, Ward 5; Lee Clement, Ward 6; and Stephanie Gelinas, Ward 7.

School Committee: Megan Parks, At-Large; Bruce Damon, Ward 1; Janet Beaudoin, Ward 2; Elizabeth Eames, Ward 3; Tanya Whitlow, Ward 4; Ashley Medina, Ward 5; Meghan Hird, Ward 6; and Paul Beauparlant, Ward 7.

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