AUGUSTA — City councilors and school board members elected in November took their oaths of office Thursday from a district court judge who is known by one new councilor not only as “your honor” but also, “Mom.”

New Augusta At-Large Councilor Raegan LaRochelle is sworn into office by her mother, Judge Rae Ann French, during the city’s inauguration ceremony Thursday. Photo courtesy of Augusta City Staff

Judge Rae Ann French administered the oath of office to her daughter, new At-Large City Councilor Raegan LaRochelle.

“That was very special, Mom, thank you for swearing me in,” LaRochelle told her mom, clad in her black judge’s robe, Thursday night.

LaRochelle, and the other councilors and school board members elected in November and taking their oaths of office, thanked voters for voting for them and their families for supporting them during November’s election.

“This was the first time in several years we’ve had a very robust field of people wanting to get elected,” said Augusta Mayor David Rollins. “We had competitive races; it was necessary (for candidates) to put in a lot of effort.

“This is a great influx of new energy,” he added. “I look forward to it. We’re going to get right after it.”

Other councilors taking their oaths of office Thursday were At-Large Councilor Heather Pouliot and Ward 3 Councilor Michael Michaud.

Michaud said he looked forward to representing Ward 3 and the city of Augusta for the next three years.

Pouliot, wife of state Sen. Matt Pouliot, urged residents to reach out to her if they have any concerns or questions.

At-Large Councilor Darek Grant was also elected in November, but because he was filling the remainder of the unexpired term of former Councilor Jennifer Day, he was sworn into office in November just after the election.

He congratulated the new councilors and suggested they enjoy their time on the council.

“It’s a pretty cool honor to be up here representing the people of Augusta,” Grant said.

School board members inaugurated Thursday were Staci Fortunato in Ward 1, Jennifer Dumond, at-large; and Kati McCormick, Ward 4.

Fortunato agreed with other board members in saying the board has done some good work, but there is more work to do.

Following the inauguration, councilors had a business meeting. They unanimously approved the council’s commitment to a statement of core values adopted by the previous city council in September 2018.

But the unanimous vote did not come without debate.

Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti voted in favor of reaffirming the council’s commitment, but expressed reservations that statements stressing council business will be conducted with civility could, if over-applied, have the effect of potentially stifling vigorous debate and make citizens nervous about how they speak while addressing the council.

“I believe in rigorous public debate,” she said. “The word civility makes me a little bit nervous; it’s politically correct and one step below censorship.

“I want everybody to come down here and express their views however they can,” Conti added. “There are times when strong words happen. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind, the main advocate for adopting the core values statement, said he, too, is in favor of vigorous public debate and the statement is not meant to discourage that.

Rollins said the civility references in the core values are meant to help ensure discussions before the council don’t cross a line of proper discourse, and said plenty of heated discussion has still taken place since the value statement was adopted.

Core values listed within the statement include avoiding conflicts of interest, acting with integrity, exercising self-control, encouraging a cooperative atmosphere free from fear, discrimination, harassment, intimidation or unfair treatment and addressing citizens, city employees, committee members and fellow councilors with equal respect.

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