AUGUSTA — New Mayor Mark O’Brien, upon taking the oath of office Thursday, said political debate in Augusta has been robust but civil.

Noting that he was speaking on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by an violent mob, O’Brien said he will do his best to see that  politics remain calm in Maine’s capital city.

“It’s not lost on me today, Jan. 6, is the anniversary of the violence we witnessed in our nation’s Capitol,” O’Brien said to a crowd, which included several members of his large family gathered at Augusta City Center.

The inaugural swearing-in ceremonies included O’Brien and newly-elected members of the City Council and Board of Education.

O’Brien went on to describe the political debate in Augusta as being focused “on hopes and dreams and visions, rather than fear and division.”

“I don’t mean to suggest that what occurs here tonight has any significant similarities to what happens every four years in Washington,” he said. “But whatever your personal political affiliation, I hope everybody can be glad we present as an example of a civil and peaceful transfer of office.”

O’Brien, a longtime past member of the city council and school board in Augusta previously, but unsuccessfully, run for mayor. He acknowledged he has long aspired to become mayor, because he loves the city and feels public service is the best way he can help others and give back to the community. While he did not offer specifics on his plans as mayor, he did vow to work to preserve what he said are positive developments already underway in Augusta and to make improvements.

Mayor Mark O’Brien gives a short speech Thursday after the inauguration ceremony at Augusta City Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“In the short-term, my first task is to do no harm,” he said. “Long-term, when I’m done, I want to be able to say Augusta is a better place than it is today. More vibrant, more compassionate, more diverse, more affordable, more culturally rich, more liveable, more desirable. In between now and then, I want to set a positive, respectful tone for our City Council meetings, both amongst ourselves and in our interactions with the public. I want Augusta to be known as a welcoming city for individuals and businesses alike.”

Two of the five officials taking their oaths of office Thursday are new to city politics: Heidi Wardwell, Ward 3 school board, and Abigail St. Valle, an at-large councilor. Both were elected in November. Pia Holmes and Kevin Lamoreau were reelected to the school board. Kevin Judkins was reelected to the city council.

Mayor-elect Mark O’Brien, left, takes the oath of office from Daniel Wathen during inauguration ceremony Thursday at Augusta City Center. At-large councillors Raegan F. LaRochelle, center, and Courtney Allen snap photos with their phones behind them. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Augusta resident Daniel Wathen, who is a former chief justice of the State Supreme Judicial Court, administered the oaths of office to the elected officials.

He noted the seriousness of the oaths themselves, citing officials’ promises in them to uphold the Constitution of both the nation and state, including school board members whom, he joked “are having a really easy time right now.”

“It’s a very important part of our democracy,” he said. “So that oath is the same whether you’re the president of the United States or a member of the school board here in Augusta. Uphold those liberties.”


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