Sault Ste. Marie's new city council for the 2015-2018 term was officially sworn into office at city council chambers at the Civic Centre Monday afternoon, as family members and friends of the new mayor and councillors looked on from the public gallery.
Mayor-elect Christian Provenzano and 11 men and women elected to city council in the October 27 municipal vote were led into council chambers to the stirring sound of a lone bagpiper and took their respective seats.
Paul Christian, re-elected as a city councillor for Ward 1, was unable to attend due to medical reasons, but hopes to attend council's December 15 meeting.
'O Canada' was sung by the Rosedale Public School French Immersion choir, followed by a non-denominational blessing.
Provenzano was officially sworn in as Sault Ste. Marie's new mayor by Malcolm White, city clerk, and wore the chain of office.
Councillors were then sworn in, reciting the oath of office in unison.
"It feels good (to be mayor)," Provenzano told SooToday.
Provenzano said he had, as promised, met individually with all those elected October 27 to find common ground as the new council gets down to business.
"The meetings all went great, they talked to me about the things they wanted to focus on…there's lots of common ground, there's a consensus we have to be as conscientious as we can be about spending money, we have to keep our taxes as low as possible."
"Everybody's supportive of me joining the PUC board and working on that (water quality) issue, I'm looking forward to that," Provenzano said.
"(Running for political office) is something that's always interested me," said Matthew Shoemaker, new Ward 3 councillor, speaking to SooToday.
"I met with Mayor Provenzano about areas of common interest and I discussed what I moved forward in the campaign, such as reviewing city spending, and Susan's idea (Ward 2 councillor Susan Myers) of ranking of city services we provide and seeing what 's really critical to residents and where savings can be found."
Shoemaker said he would like to see council move forward with transparency initiatives he brought up in the campaign, such as posting council's voting records on the city website and expenditures online for the public to see.
"It's exciting (to be a city councillor)…I was a kid, before I went to law school I had this in mind (to run for public office)," said Ross Romano, new Ward 6 councillor.
"Especially in my teen years, I felt more needed to be done for youth and I thought one day I could get involved."
"The biggest issue is that we need to get control of our spending and become more business friendly…if you can get business coming in it'll be a better place for youth, for the elderly, a better downtown, if you improve the economy everything goes with it," Romano told us.
"It feels so exciting to be here with the other new councillors, and the re-elected councillors, and the new mayor, I think he's going to do a great job," said new Ward 3 councillor Judy Hupponen.
Reining in spending is a priority, Hupponen said.
In his inaugural address, Provenzano thanked his family for their support, and for the inspiration provided to him by former mayors James McIntyre, Alex Harry, Don MacGregor and Ron Irwin.
Provenzano said he believes in the staff who run the city's day-to-day operations, and spoke of how staff and council must work together to spend tax dollars more efficiently.
Provenzano spoke of the demographic challenges the city faces and the need to attract young, migrant families, the need to find resources for improved infrastructure, and the need to keep taxes as low as possible as the cost of living goes up.
The new mayor said he needed council's support in these endeavours.
Going around the table, Lou Turco thanked the Ward 4 voters for returning him to office once again.
Ward 2 councillor Terry Sheehan said he was "honoured and privileged" to represent the ward again, looking forward to working on various projects.
Marchy Bruni, re-elected in Ward 5, said he would continue to work on issues important to his ward, such as property taxes, infrastructure and water quality.
Judy Hupponen of Ward 3 said she is ready to make a difference and is looking at issues in the long term, beyond the next four years.
Those issues, Hupponen said, include improved parks and recreation facilities for Sault Ste. Marie, available land for industry, a revitalized downtown and a Sault Area Hospital that continues to attract doctors.
Ross Romano of Ward 6 thanked his family and friends for their support and said he is looking forward to working with the new mayor and council in a "naturally gifted" community.
Matthew Shoemaker of Ward 3 launched straight into issues, encouraging council to save money where it can save money, and that cuts in spending must be made where necessary.
Re-elected Ward 4 councillor Rick Niro also gave an issue-specific opening speech, bringing attention to the need for safety of buildings in his ward, along with the need to provide better services for seniors, such as snow removal for seniors who are unable to clear their own driveways.
Joe Krmpotich of Ward 6 thanked Frank Manzo, longtime city councillor, for being an inspiration and said he is looking forward to working with Romano as his new wardmate.
Ward 2 councillor Susan Myers thanked city CAO Joe Fratesi and city staff for their work, praising them for being "rich in knowledge and experience."
Myers said she is looking forward to council implementing a system whereby citizens will be asked to rank which city services they feel are most important, and also called for council to keep taxes as low as possible.
Frank Fata, Ward 5 councillor, said he will devote himself to ward-specific issues such as snow removal while keeping his eye on the bigger, city-wide picture.
Steve Butland of Ward 1 read out remarks prepared by his wardmate Paul Christian, who wrote a congratulatory note to Provenzano and all councillors, and that he will also be keeping in touch as he recovers from surgery.
As for himself, Butland, elected for the seventh time in Ward 1, said he was pleased the community's major employers such as Essar Steel Algoma and Tenaris, along with Sault College and Algoma University, are performing well.
Butland encouraged council to be proactive and not wait for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) or the senior levels of government to come forward with initiatives, but rather to come up with initiatives of its own.
(PHOTO: Mayor Christian Provenzano seen during the city council inauguration on December 1, 2014 at the Civic Centre. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday)