Published January 17, 2020

MELROSE — Much of the city’s elected leadership changed hands at the beginning of November and Monday night, it celebrated its achievement while looking ahead at all the work there is to do.

Led by new Mayor Paul Brodeur, the City Council and School Committee took part in an inaugural ceremony in Memorial Hall that ushered in a new era just in time for the history page to flip to the start of another decade.

Brodeur talked, in part, about the need to take a few calculated risks.

MAYOR PAUL BRODEUR gives his inaugural address. (Courtesy Photo)

Saying the city can choose to plot its own course away from the harshness of the national dialogue, the mayor said to be “excellent as a City, we must take risks and act from a position of pride and confidence in the incredible community we are. Now, we may not always succeed and if we don’t, we will again be faced with a choice. Do we give up or do we take a look at what happened, learn our lessons and pick ourselves up again to make another good faith attempt. After all, we teach our kids that mistakes are okay as long as they learn from them. As adults, we should remind ourselves of this lesson.”

Following is the complete text of Brodeur’s inaugural remarks:

Thank you to our Master of Ceremonies Scott Forbes. I think he’s done a great job so far, don’t you? I’d also like to thank my new colleagues on the City Council and School Committee, congratulations. Additionally, I’m grateful to welcome staff from Senator Markey’s and Senator Warren’s office. Thanks for being with us.

Melrosians and honored guests, Thank you.

When faced with the challenge of drafting and delivering this inaugural address, I did what any responsible elected official would do – I delegated the task to a group of kids.

Yesterday, I was proud to take an oath drafted collectively by dozens of kids from all across Melrose. Their drafts were full of observations and requests, many of which you might suspect. Yes, there were many “recess forever,” “better food in the cafeteria,” or even “declare a city wide unicorn day.” But what was remarkable about what the kids wrote was what they had in common.

Most of the kids wrote that Melrose was a safe, happy, beautiful place that they love to grow up in. They said they loved their families, their neighborhoods, their teammates, and their schools. When they did ask for something, they asked that people be nicer to each other and not argue. They asked for more books at the library. They asked for more flowers and trees. They asked that we have more fun events and that people be happier and kinder to each other. But mostly, they each spoke with pride about their home, a city they love, our city.

MAYOR PAUL BRODEUR presents his first Key to the City to former School Committee member, Alderman, and State Representative Mike Festa during Monday’s inaugural ceremonies. (Courtesy Photo)

And I have to confess something. I couldn’t agree with them more. And for that reason, I’m going to stay away this evening from delivering a long list of promises. Instead, I want you to think about this inauguration as a reset button, a chance for us to take a moment and remember who we are, what makes us great and where we want to go.

When you run for office, it’s traditional to have a slogan. During my campaign, I chose “Melrose Matters.” For the most part, people were supportive but I did notice a few eye rolls which I took to mean, “If you lived in Stoneham, you’d say Stoneham would matter. If you were in San Francisco, you’d say San Francisco would matter.” People believe that where they live is important because, well, they live there. The most important street in the city is the one you live on. The school that needs the most attention is the one your kids go to. This is natural and, quite frankly, good. We need residents to advocate for their interests clearly and earnestly. It’s how we, as a city, know what’s going on and where there are problems we need to address.

But it got me thinking about what is it about this city at this time that makes it matter so much.

Part of it is our history. Melrose was founded when a group of families who grew tired of having to travel to Malden to attend church and to be involved in their town government banded together and petitioned to create their own town. Unlike so many Massachusetts cities and towns, Melrose was founded relatively recently. This was not the result of a land dispute or religious conflict, but was accomplished by citizens working together to improve their quality of life. This is a tradition which continues today.

The other part of why Melrose Matters hinges on how we answer certain serious and challenging questions. Will we take risks? Will we take the steps we must to secure a brighter future? Will we pioneer innovative programs and ideas? It has become fashionable recently to suggest that national political gridlock means that nothing can get done. However so much of how we experience the future relies not on outside actors and events, but on our own attitudes about it. We can choose to plot our own course.

How do we do that? Well, to be excellent as a city, we must take risks and act from a position of pride and confidence in the incredible community we are.

Now, we may not always succeed and if we don’t, we will again be faced with a choice. Do we give up or do we take a look at what happened, learn our lessons and pick ourselves up again to make another good faith attempt. After all, we teach our kids that mistakes are ok as long as they learn from them. As adults, we should remind ourselves of this lesson.

In the face of the challenges our future holds, we must be able to demonstrate to ourselves and to our children, that we remain committed to the experiment of self-governance here in our city. The stakes, the “so what” of local government is that it is in our cities and towns where our greatest hope lies in valuing our past while developing new practices and mindsets. Here we plant the seeds that grow to impact our region, our state, our nation and beyond.

Melrosians get this. We understand that this city is a special place. A place where generation after generation has carefully planned and invested to ensure that the city their children grow up in is better than the one that they themselves did. I’m inviting each of you to participate and continue this honored tradition. So I ask you: when another national headline appears that makes your head spin, or a tweet you read makes your blood boil, or every time you scroll through a Facebook post that seems outrageous, use these moments as opportunities to become productively engaged here in this city and make it a better place.

We can’t always control what happens in Boston, in Washington, or in the world at large, but we do have a say in what kind of city we will be.

For me and my administration, I believe that we can and we must lead.

We must lead when it comes to student learning outcomes, in providing equitable services to all of our students, making sure we are meeting the needs of all our learners. As a member of the School Committee, I am eager to identify a new partner in student success as we select our next superintendent. Here, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge with gratitude, on behalf of the city, as mayor and on behalf of my family as a parent, the tremendous contributions of Superintendent Cyndy Taymore.

I would also like to acknowledge the contributions, friendship, and kindness of my predecessor, Mayor Gail Infurna. Happy Birthday Madam Mayor!

We must lead when it comes to city services. Pot holes must be filled, our sidewalks clear, our roads passable and open to driver, biker, and walker alike. Our police officers must continue to be integrated partners in our community and our fire fighters must be properly equipped to continue to provide for our safety.

We must lead when it comes to inclusion and diversity. The diversity of our community, in race, in age, in faith, in country of origin, in physical or mental ability, in gender identity and orientation are each points of strength for us. We must work daily to continue to grow and expand this diversity and ensure that we remain one community open to all.

We must lead when it comes to combatting climate change, protecting our natural resources, ensuring sustainable practices, and promoting energy efficiency. We have accomplished a great deal in this area, but there are still broader, bolder steps we will take.

We must lead when it comes to housing and economic development. Melrose is a community of families, and while what these families look like has grown and evolved over the years, the fact remains that our community depends on the health and strength of our families. Making sure that a variety of housing choices are available and affordable in Melrose remains a priority. Ensuring that our local businesses have the tools they need to succeed and grow is essential to the recipe of what makes Melrose special.

We must lead in supporting our arts and cultural communities and the facilities they work in. From the nation’s oldest municipal orchestra to new innovative programs and arts centers like Follow Your Art, Melrose is blessed with a thriving arts community. Together, we will develop a united vision, create dynamic public art, and provide opportunities for creative expression at all levels and in every part of the city.

We must also lead when it comes to citizen engagement. Our city departments work incredibly hard to provide quality services on tight budgets. It is time that we tell you, the citizens, the stories of these efforts. We believe that civic engagement is enhanced by effective communication and access to information which informs our debate about the important issues of the day. By providing better data and strengthening communication we improve the quality of our conversations as well as our collective potential.

Fellow Melrosians, I am before you tonight not on my own, but as the result of the trust, faith, and love of so many.

I am honored to be joined by my mother and father, Lia and Norm, who chose this city as our home. Your example and love have been guiding posts for me and I am grateful that you’re here with me tonight. To my siblings, thank you for your patience and love. Your experiences in this city have contributed greatly to why I love this place. Thank you for sticking close by.

To my wife Liz, your ongoing tolerance, if not acceptance, of my antics is inexplicable. I love you. To my sons Ethan and Sam I want each of you to know that as proud as I am to have been elected to lead Melrose as mayor, my first and most important job is be your father. I couldn’t be prouder or more impressed with the young men you are becoming.

And tonight, I would like to take a moment to recognize one outstanding Melrosian. It is a blessing to be able to thank the people who shaped who you have become, who have given you the opportunities to succeed, counseled you in challenging moments. It is, however, a distinct blessing to be able to offer that gratitude not only on your own behalf, but on behalf of an entire city. In recognition of this Melrosian’s contributions to our city, through elected office on the school committee, on the Board of Alderman, and as our State Representative in the General Court, I am pleased to present this key to the City to my friend and mentor and goat farmer Mr. Mike Festa.

I gathered our department heads and managers together a few weeks ago and told them that they should each take a moment of silence for the phrase “But that’s the way we’ve always done it.” I challenged each of them to identify how they can integrate improved communication, the smart use of data, and good customer service into every stage of what they and their teams do for the city. They are a dedicated and talented group of professionals, and I am lucky to have them as I embark on this new endeavor.

In the coming weeks I will be releasing a series of plans, initiatives, and events which will move us closer to these values and, as I do so, I request your partnership. Whether you come to a public meeting, schedule a time to chat, serve on a board or commission, get involved in one of our many civic groups, or just sharing your views with your neighbors, your voice and earnest contributions are vital to the success of the city.

We have a lot of big decisions to make as a community. But make no mistake. We will be doing this from a position of strength and with your help I am eager to meet these challenges.

Let us, as a city, demonstrate to all that when a bold vision is met with hard work by an engaged citizenry nearly anything is possible.

It’s how the community of Melrose began and as I learned yesterday it’s what our future generations are calling for. Join me in this effort.

May God bless each of you and may God bless the City of Melrose.