NASHUA — Despite some controversy, the new Board of Aldermen was sworn into office on Sunday while being urged to cooperate for the betterment of the city.
Fifteen members of the the board — which includes five new faces — took the oath of office during the city’s 107th government inauguration at Nashua High School North.
“What matters most is that all of us must find common ground to work together,” Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told the new aldermen, Board of Education and other newly elected groups. “… The challenges we are facing today require our best efforts and willingness to believe in ourselves and our community.”
She dared the new officials to not take the easy way out but to be willing to share, hear and understand all of the facts surrounding various issues. She encouraged board members to get to know each other, choose compromise and understand that today’s adversary may be tomorrow’s ally.
“Change is challenging, but it opens the door to new ideas,” said Lozeau.
Her comments were echoed by Attorney General Joseph Foster, master of ceremonies for the event. Foster reminded those in attendance that running for public office is a difficult challenge, and that Sunday’s ceremony was an ideal time to celebrate public service in all of its forms.
“Thank you so much for what you are doing, and the sacrifices you are making,” said Foster. According to him, incumbents on the Board of Aldermen have served a combined total of 71 years on the board.
As the new board begins a new year, Foster offered his own words of wisdom to the governing body.
“As you do your work, celebrate disagreement, but avoid being disagreeable,” Foster told the group.
Following the ceremony, the Board of Aldermen met to officially select a new board president and discuss a controversial proposal for committee assignments. Although Alderman-at-Large David Deane was unofficially chosen as the new board president during a prior caucus meeting in December, a nomination was made on Sunday for Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire to possibly serve as the head of the board.
However, following an hour of discussion about various committee assignments, Wilshire withdrew her name as a possible contender and Deane was unanimously voted in as president by his fellow aldermen.
The first meeting of the aldermen drew both criticism and accusations by different board members. Alderman Ken Siegel, a newcomer for Ward 5, described the method for choosing committee assignments as a “narcissism matrix,” maintaining he has more business experience than mostly everyone on the board and should have been selected for the Planning and Economic Development Committee.
Meanwhile, Alderman Pamela Brown, newcomer for Ward 4, sent an email to Deane this past weekend also expressing opposition to how board members were assigned to committees. She noted that every board member was assigned to three committees except for three female members of the board.
“We all have our blind spots, and even though you may not have intentionally applied outdated stereotypes, the assignments do appear otherwise,” Brown wrote. “… Even though you told me (Friday) that you would probably not make any changes to the committee assignments, please reconsider, put favoritism and gender bias aside and do what is best for our community.”
Deane, who did allow changes to the committee assignments on Sunday, said some of the emails and comments were out of line, adding he was not going to engage in the behavior.
“Painting me as an evil person — it just really bothers me,” said Deane, adding he considered each board member’s different interests, seniority, leadership positions, preferences and schedules to assign the committees.
“I thought the approach I used was balanced,” he said, apologizing for any misinterpretation of the assignments.
Brown also apologized, maintaining her comments were not intended to be offensive but rather an expression of her own email@example.com