MANCHESTER — Mayor Joyce Craig laid out her priorities for the new year as she was sworn in Tuesday to serve a second term as the 48th mayor of the Queen City.
Craig took her oath of office, administered by her husband, attorney Michael Craig, during inaugural ceremonies at the Rex Theatre. Then the mayor told a large gathering of friends, family and state and local officials that she believes Manchester officials and residents are ready “to work together and move our city forward.”
“By building upon past successes, acknowledging our challenges, and working together, we must enact policies that help lift up all of our residents,” said Craig. “As I said two years ago, this work will not be easy or quick, but it is essential. I look forward to going to work, every day, to serve the people of this city — the city that made me who I am today.”
The ceremonies were followed by organizational meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Board of School Committee at City Hall.
Craig shared the stage at the Rex with newly-elected aldermen and school board members also being sworn in, as well as U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, and five former city mayors: Frank Guinta, Robert Baines, Sylvio Dupuis, Ray Wieczorek, and Ted Gatsas.
After incoming aldermen and school board members were sworn in by City Clerk Matt Normand, Pappas introduced Craig.
“Today, Manchester is a city on the move with great potential for the future,” said Pappas. “The revitalization we’ve seen in our city is undeniable. New good paying jobs are coming to Manchester in mill buildings and office parks across town. Mayor Craig is ready to continue to get to work to continue to move us forward. And if we’re truly going to tackle the city’s challenges, and seize its opportunities, we must be ready and willing to work with her every step of the way.”
Craig began her speech by highlighting what she said were signs of progress over the last two years in the city, including a 6% decrease in crime, 16% decrease in opioid overdoses, the largest increase in funding for Manchester schools in 14 years, and more than $250 million dollars in new, private investments in economic development.
“We’ve invested in affordable housing and upgraded our parks,” said Craig. “We began a solar project, developed the first-ever citywide sidewalk improvement plan, and were awarded a $10.5 million dollar grant for college and career-readiness for our students. Standing before you today, I’m excited about what the future holds and what we can do together. Through collaboration, we’ll work to build a Manchester with thriving neighborhoods, dynamic cultural centers and strong schools for every child.”
Craig highlighted actions taken over the last two years to address social issues and crime.
“The challenges we face today – the addiction epidemic, homelessness, mental illness – did not arise overnight, and are not specific to our community,” said Craig. These issues are complex, and there’s no simple solution. Last year, we established the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness. As a direct result of the task force, we’ve added outreach workers, amplified community policing efforts, and hired a homelessness prevention coordinator. We’ve increased funding to the shelter to stay open during the day, and will continue to convene our Emergency Operations Center to make headway on pressing issues surrounding homelessness.”
Craig acknowledged more work needs to be done.
“We’ll continue to call upon the state to increase treatment options across New Hampshire, and open more emergency shelter beds,” said Craig. “Manchester cannot solve the state’s issues alone, and over the next two years, we’ll continue to work and advocate for increased services for all Granite Staters.”
Craig also highlighted steps taken to make Manchester safer, including city aldermen approving a 3-year plan for 30 more police officers, 19 of which will hit the streets in 2020, and outfitting officers with body cameras.
“I’m confident that this move, coupled with predictive policing and data analytics, will decrease officer response times, and will drive crime down further,” said Craig.
Craig also highlighted the work being done by Manchester Proud to develop a strategic plan that will “help define the future of education in our city.”
“Everyone from parents, teachers, students, residents, and business owners have been involved in this process,” said Craig. “And by continuing this collaboration, we will help our learners and our educators grow. In the next two years, we’ll continue to improve our public schools. We’ll design innovative programs and drive new ideas, such as implementing a dual-language elementary school and developing our high schools into magnet learning centers. We’ll make investments in our educators — working toward a fair and sustainable contract, increasing professional development opportunities, and building a culture of trust and support.”
Craig closed her remarks telling residents the city will achieve “great things” with their help.
“Together, we will enter this decade with hope, with grit, and with determination,” said Craig. “Together, we will build a smarter city. And together, we will keep Manchester moving forward.”
Following the inaugural ceremonies, aldermen and school board members headed to City Hall for their organizational meetings. Both Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy and At Large member Dan O’Neil received nominations for chairman of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, with Craig casting the deciding vote in O’Neil’s favor after two rounds of voting produced identical 7-7 results.
Voting for O’Neil were Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart, Pat Long, Tony Sapienza, Bill Barry, Normand Gamache and O’Neil. Roy, Joe Kelly Levasseur, Keith Hirschmann, Elizabeth Moreau, Ross Terrio, Mike Porter, and Barbara Shaw all voted for Roy.
School board members also needed two votes before choosing a vice chairman. The first round of voting produced six votes for Leslie Want, five votes for Art Beaudry and four for Jim O’Connell. The meeting recessed, with O’Connell announcing he was withdrawing his name from consideration when the meeting resumed. A second round of voting produced nine votes for Want and six votes for Beaudry.
Voting for Want were James Porter, Karen Soule, Jeremy Dobson, Dan Bergeron, Jane Beaulieu, Nicole Leapley, O’Connell, Want and Craig. Casting votes for Beaudry were Kelly Thomas, Kathleen Kelley Arnold, Joseph Lachance, Bill Shea, Peter Perich and Beaudry.