AUGUSTA — Mayor David Rollins, as he was sworn into office Thursday, pledged to do his best to maintain and improve the quality of life in the city by striking a balance between protecting neighborhoods and growing livelihoods.

During the campaign, Rollins had said it is important to maintain and improve the city’s quality of life by balancing encouragement of commercial development to add jobs and broaden the tax base with protection of the city’s neighborhoods.

He reiterated that goal Thursday following his Election Day win in the race for Augusta mayor.

“We don’t want to miss opportunities in development, but at the same time we don’t want to overdevelop to the point we’re going to be impacting people’s home space,” Rollins said. “We need to maintain that edge between neighborhood and livelihood. We want good employers that make the city vibrant, who build in places most suitable for the nature of their enterprise. I also think we, on the City Council, can encourage the school system to continually work to enhance their effectiveness, image and results, and we’ll create a buzz about the quality of education in Augusta. That’s what I mean by quality of life. So people coming to the region look to Augusta as the place they want to be.”

Rollins was administered the oath of office by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, a former Augusta mayor, while Rollins’ wife, Jan Rollins, smiled broadly in the audience. He thanked his family and other supporters and vowed to residents he would “spend all my time as mayor doing the very best on your behalf.”

Rollins’ election leaves his at-large council seat vacant. Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, said it will be up to councilors to set a special election to elect someone to fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat.

Thus there will be three new councilors and a new mayor once the new councilors are sworn in, in January, and the special election is held to fill Rollins’ council seat.

Rollins, who spent part of his day Thursday taking down campaign signs, said that makes one of his first jobs as mayor to bring the new council together.

“Almost half your council is turned over,” Rollins said. “That brings uncertainty about what the dynamics of the new council are going to be, about how all the pieces are going to come together. I’m confident they’re going to come together well and work fine together. But with that limited amount of experience, both on the council and with each other, I think coming together and doing some initial work to get to know each other, work on our interpersonal relationships, talk about expectations for each other and the role of the council would be good. Look at the charter and comprehensive plan and say, ‘Here’s the charter. Here’s the blueprint for the community.’ I think we’ll get good consensus and good decisions.”

Katz had endorsed Rollins in the race for mayor and served alongside him on the council from 2007, when Katz was elected mayor and Rollins was elected to the council, until Katz left the mayor’s job when he was elected to the state Senate in 2011.

“I know you are going to do a terrific job as mayor,” Katz told Rollins before administering the oath.

Rollins was sworn in Thursday, having been elected to serve the remaining year of former Mayor William Stokes’ term in the city’s top elective post. Stokes resigned in July when he was appointed a state superior court justice. City Council and other city candidates elected Tuesday won’t take the oath of office until January.

Elected to the council were newcomers Linda Conti, to Ward 1, and Anna Blodgett, to Ward 4, and incumbent Jeffrey Bilodeau, at large.

Katz said among the challenges facing his friend Rollins will be setting the city budget, especially with cuts in recent years to state revenue sharing to municipalities.

“The budget is always an issue,” Katz said, prior to the swearing-in ceremony. “I know David is aware of the challenges Augusta faces as a service center community, especially given the budget difficulties the state has had. I’ve seen him advocate for Augusta in the Legislature, and I know he’ll do a great job in that role as mayor.”

Ward 1 Councilor Michael Byron, who ran against Rollins as an official write-in candidate for mayor, said before the meeting there are no hard feelings lingering between the two. They will continue to serve in city government together until January, when Byron’s term on the council expires. Term limits prevented him from seeking re-election to his Ward 1 council seat

“Dave and I have been good friends since before he got on the council,” Byron said, noting that when he ran for his first council term, as a newcomer to the city from Manchester, Rollins wrote a letter to the editor in support of Byron’s candidacy. “We’re buddies. When I call him a cheerleader, I don’t mean that derisively. He’s the number one cheerleader for Augusta and its economic growth. We share a lot of those points of view.”

During the campaign, Byron said he was the only one of the three candidates — William E. Dowling, a former councilor and mayor was also on the ballot for mayor — with the 25 years of municipal budget experience he thought was needed to see the city through challenging financial times. Byron said Thursday that despite not having as much of a financial background as he has, Rollins should be able to get the job of mayor done.

“I think he’ll be able to handle the job,” Byron said. “City Manager Bill Bridgeo and (finance director and assistant city manager) Ralph St. Pierre are, in my opinion, two of the strongest financial managers in the state of Maine.”

Rollins said he has no disrespect nor hard feelings toward either Byron or Dowling.

Katz said he thinks Rollins is more than up for the job of mayor.

“Clearly David’s love for the community comes through loud and clear,” he said. “He had an opportunity to grow up in a town that embraced him. I see this as another example of him wanting to give back.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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