[The following is a transcript of Mayor Ted Bettencourt's inaugural address from Jan. 2, 2011, delivered at .]
"Good evening. I want to thank my family, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens for being part of this Inauguration Day and for helping to make it possible. There is no other place I would rather be this evening than in Wiggin Auditorium taking the oath of office and speaking to you about my hopes and dreams for Peabody, Massachusetts.
"I am deeply honored to be inaugurated as the Mayor of this great city. I am humbled by the faith and confidence the citizens of Peabody have placed in me and I am truly thrilled to have the opportunity to lead our city.
"I am keenly aware of the many critical issues facing our city. During the campaign, I spoke often about 'Peabody Pride' and my belief that there is no obstacle our can’t overcome if we work together as a community. I am more convinced of that than ever before.
"Over the past few months, Peabody has suffered some serious blows, discouraging setbacks and tragic events. We made the news when our downtown and neighborhoods flooded, when pedestrians were hit by motor vehicles while crossing our downtown streets, when a veteran police officer was seriously injured on traffic duty, when a major employer sold out to an overseas corporation destabilizing scores of employees and their families, and most tragically, when one of our own firefighters was lost in the line of duty.
"But in every instance, the people of this community have responded with caring, courage, generosity, resilience and strength. The best of Peabody has been on display, reminding us all how amazing the people of this city can be and turning our darkest hours into Peabody’s finest moments.
"We witnessed the heroism and supreme sacrifice of Firefighter Jim Rice who gave his life protecting our community. We all grieve the loss of such a great man.
"I witnessed the courage of Peabody firefighters at the scene of that fire who, despite knowing the grave condition of their fallen brother, did their duty with the utmost professionalism and extraordinary strength of character.
"I witnessed the strength of Amy Rice who stood like a rock for her family and friends through unimaginable grief. A truly amazing woman.
"I witnessed the incredible loyalty and brotherhood of the Peabody Fire Department and Peabody Police Department, who rallied around Jim Rice and his family.
"We witnessed the compassion of thousands of Peabody residents who rushed to help, donating funds, clothes and food to the families left homeless by the fire.
"I witnessed the kindness of young boys and girls bringing their own dolls and toys to the city’s fire stations so the families left homeless by the fire would have a Christmas.
"I witnessed the generosity of Peabody’s business community. Eastern Bank, North Shore Bank, Northshore Mall, Peabody Municipal Federal Credit Union who helped create relief funds; and Rizzo’s Roast Beef and many other local restaurants and places of business who gave whatever was necessary to get our city through this tragedy.
"I witnessed the best of Peabody on display for all to see, and that spirit of community filled my heart with immense pride. This week, I have been prouder to say that 'I am from Peabody.'
"I have never believed more fervently that our great city can take on both the problems and seize the opportunities that will present themselves in the days ahead. Our greatest asset is our people and they clearly have the strength, resilience and determination it takes to succeed as a community.
"We will face the hard facts and look for solutions wherever warranted. We will seek and seize opportunities wherever we can find them.
"Like cities across the Commonwealth, Peabody will have to grapple with serious financial challenges in 2012. State aid cuts may continue while health insurance costs to the city will increase. A number of painful budget cuts will likely be needed to continue to keep our city fiscally sound. The problems are real and we will deal with them directly, fairly and openly.
"The future of Peabody Square and our Centennial Industrial Park are of concern. For years, our downtown has struggled to carve out a viable identity and is often treated as just a cut-through to Salem. Our industrial park vacancy numbers have risen dramatically due to the region’s economic downturn, increased competition and a lack of direction. Threats to our city’s future economic strength and the stability of our tax base demands action. These are real problems and we will act to create positive change in both areas.
"Our city is also facing educational challenges. Continued cuts in state aid have resulted in asking our school administrators and teachers to do more with fewer resources to educate our children. Our school buildings are rapidly deteriorating due to a combination of old age and inadequate planning. Most notably, the facilities at Higgins Middle School, the largest middle school in the state, is a source of embarrassment and in desperate need of attention. We must and will act to ensure our children get a quality education in safe school environments.
"Peabody is ready to turn a new page, and I am ready to harness the strength, resilience, determination and community spirit that exists across our city to create some good news and positive changes for our city.
"To that end, I am taking some actions now to get us heading in the right direction:
- I am establishing a Business and Economic Development Council made up of local business leaders, city officials and citizens to work with the city to improve the business and job climate and to promote new strategies for development. When businesses locate or expand in Peabody, new jobs are the result. Our ability to attract new industry can help re-establish our city as an economic engine of the entire region. The members of this council will be announced and the first meeting will be convened this month.
- I am calling for a complete audit of all city departments including the Municipal Electric Light. Every department budget and position will be reviewed to determine areas of duplication and possible cost-savings for the city. I will implement changes to make city operations more efficient and cost effective.
- I will authorize a new Master Plan be developed for the city to replace the current plan, which is over 10-years-old. The new plan will set a more timely and realistic direction for the city moving forward and reflect the current and prospective economic and municipal climate and demands.
- I have met with the Governor and Lt. Governor and spoken with Congressman Tierney, state Senator Fred Berry and representatives Joyce Spiliotis and Ted Speliotis. I have made it clear to all that I will be knocking on their doors for increased help in getting Peabody its fair share of state and federal funding and grant monies. We cannot let any of these available funds for schools, flood mitigation, housing or economic development slip away from us.
- I will work with the Peabody Chamber of Commerce and downtown residents and property owners to make Peabody Square a more pedestrian-friendly, more safely navigable and more aesthetically attractive area. I want a Peabody Square to be proud of.
- I will work with Peabody’s neighboring mayors and town managers to explore opportunities of regional consolidation and cooperation.
- I will support building a middle school. New construction is the most cost-effective and educationally wise option. Repairing aging building while attempting to adequately address environmental concerns would be the penny-wise and pound-foolish thing to do and we would still be left housing students in a building with a short lifespan.
- Building community spirit begins with community service. I will propose that a community service requirement for all students graduating from Peabody High School be developed and implemented. Students will be required to perform a specific number of community service hours with a local service group, nonprofit, or city department during their high school years in order to graduate. St. John’s Prep, Masconomet High School and other area high schools have community service requirements that enrich their students’ experience, promote pride in their community and benefit local organizations at the same time. It is an important lesson that I want Peabody students to learn.
"And this is just the beginning. The challenges ahead are many and some, even daunting. But the good news is, opportunities will be many as well.
"As I look around this hall, at my friends, our elected officials, our city employees and my fellow citizens, and when I think of the thousands of hard working men and women I met last year who care about this city, I can see the determination and ability required to move a great city forward. Peabody has what it takes but we all have to come together to make it happen. I need your help and I’m asking you to join me in bringing our whole community together to get the job done. Peabody pride is alive. Together we can make it soar.
"Thank you so much for your encouragement and good wishes as a new day begins in our city. I hope 2012 will be a happy, healthy and prosperous new year for Peabody and all of its citizens.