Setti Warren took the oath of office before a packed City Hall today, becoming the 29th mayor of Newton and the first African-American mayor in the city's history.
“I am really excited about leading this fantastic community,” Warren said. “I’m ready to jump in.”
Warren, 39, took office before an audience that included Gov. Deval Patrick, Attorney General and Democratic Senate nominee Martha Coakley, and hundreds or Newton residents. See previous coverage here and here.
“It’s a great day for Newton, a great day for the commonwealth,” Patrick said. “I’m really thrilled by the unity here and the sense [of Warren’s] forward looking nature, and the promise for Newton.”
Warren succeeds Cohen, who chose to not to run for a fourth term as the mayor. Some residents see this as an opportunity to institute some changes.
“ A lot of people are excited,” said Allan Cole, a Newton resident. “A lot of people, especially some people I’ve talked to on the Board of Aldermen, they feel like now they will have someone that will listen to their ideas.
Scott Lennon, an Alderman since 2002 and the newly elected president of the Board of Aldermen, agrees there are new opportunities ahead.
"It’s almost like a clean slate,” said Lennon.” I look forward to working with [Warren] and his leadership team and the rest of the leadership on the board as we try to tackle the issues that are facing Newton.”
The inaugural proceedings, which included the oath of office by the Newton Board of Alderman and the Newton School Committee, were attended by so many that citizens were turned away from the Alderman Chambers when capacity was reached. Televisions were set up in several rooms throughout Newton City Hall so that the overflow could watch the historical event.
The theme of the event was “Coming together,” a step Warren said is necessary if the community is to solve its problems.
“Conflicting views turn personal and rhetoric turns venomous,” Warren said. “Over the past few years this has kept us from moving forward as a community. As arguments became rancorous, decisions were deferred and solutions that were once within reach no longer seemed so.”
Warren spoke of the financial uncertainties facing Newton and the rest of the country, something he pledged to fight during his campaign.
“Health care and pension liability is sky rocketing,” Warren said. “Costs will need to be contained. With state funding likely to be cut again as tax revenues lag, we will have to make difficult choices in the months and years ahead to preserve what’s best about our city while living within our means.”
Lennon agreed, saying that the attention must now be turned towards resolving issues facing the budget.
“The biggest thing facing us is the budget,” said Lennon. “It’s going to be hard but we’re excited to tackle it. We’ve talked a lot in the last few months since we were elected in November, and we have some ideas or where to go. We understand this issue facing Newton, and Massachusetts and the country as well.”
Warren’s dedication to a more sensible fiscal budget was one of the selling points that brought supporters to his camp.
“He seems to have his eyes on the right things,” said Sarah Abrams, a Newton resident. “First and foremost, [Warren plans] to get the fiscal part in order.”
Some are eager to see what Warren can deliver before making any declarations.
“It seems like he has a plan,” said Joe LaCroix, chief of the fire department. “My thought is to always approach everything with an open mind.”
Margaret Ford, a Newton resident described herself as “a-political,” but said that she’s looking forward to seeing how Warren handles the post.
“I’ve got an open mind about [him], “ Ford said. “I do like the directions he seems to be taking.”
Warren will waste no time getting started. Despite the holiday, his team will start work this weekend.
“We’re going to be meeting in the morning, we’re really jumping on top of the financial situation, that’s our first priority.”
Warren’s team hopes to have a presentation for next years fiscal budget—which begins July 1—ready to present to the city of Newton by mid-January.