Photographs By John Murray
Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary was sworn in to his 4th term in office on Sunday, December 1st, in a ceremony at Waterbury City Hall. Afterwards O'Leary paraded through the streets and across the Green with his wife Kathy to attend a mass at the Immaculate Conception Church as a major snowstorm unloaded on the region. O'Leary grimaced as the first snowflakes whacked into his face, but as he proceeded through the streets he laughed and smiled and unleashed a child's joy of a snow day in New England.
O'Leary was officially sworn in in a private ceremony inside his office before his daughter, Maggie O'Leary, gave him a ceremonial oath of office in front of a packed house of friends, family and supporters inside Veterans Hall.
Maggie O'Leary is 18 years old and and a freshman at Holy Cross College in Worcester., Mass. Her father has been mayor of Waterbury for almost half her life.
(The following is Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's inaugural address)
"I’d like to start by acknowledging my deceased grandparents, John and Margaret O’Leary and Jerimiah and Elizabeth Murphy, each who immigrated here to Waterbury from Ireland in search of the American Dream. Like most immigrants in the early 1900’s they were poor, but had faith in God and determination. Each of my grandfathers worked in the brass mills, met my grandmothers and started their families. I want to thank my parents who have also passed, my father Neil was a career Waterbury firefighter, my mom Margaret or better known as Peggy, was a career registered nurse both at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Visiting Nurse Association. My parents taught my five siblings and myself the value of faith, family, hard work, and loyalty.
I want to acknowledge my wife Kathy, herself a career school teacher, our son Patrick and his wife Melissa who were unable to make it here from Charlotte, and my daughter Maggie and her mom Dale. Due to the weather, Maggie had to leave right after the administering of the oath of office to head back to school, where she is a freshman at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.
As most of you know I am in my fortieth continuous year of service to this great city. I have never over those forty years, regretted one second of public service. I have loved this city and all of its people since day one. I have been proud to have served this city as a police officer, holding every rank up to and including police chief. I served over two years on the Board of Education, and the past eight years as your Mayor, which has been an honor of a lifetime.
These past eight years as Mayor have been the most challenging, and yet the most rewarding. I am proud that we have seen growth and successes in many of our public schools in the city. I commend Commissioner Liz Brown, Chief Academic Officer Darren Schwartz, and the many others who have made a difference in the areas surrounding the Office of Early Childhood. I am also proud that after a national search, we have found our new school Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin who in eighteen months has shown tremendous leadership and the courage to move this district forward. I commend every member of our school board for their unwavering support of Dr. Ruffin. But as every urban school district leader in Connecticut knows, there is so much more work that needs to be done. The state of Connecticut still has the most significant achievement gap in this country. We must continue to fight for resources through our federal and state delegations to support the almost nineteen thousand students in our public schools here in Waterbury, and the other urban students in cities across Connecticut. I also want to acknowledge and thank Commissioner Karen Harvey for her leadership in working with Dr. Ruffin, CHRO, and my office to continue to find ways to attract and retain minority school teachers and administrators.
I would ask Dr. Ruffin, incoming Board of Education President Chuck Pagano, every board member, teachers, administrators and parents in the Waterbury school district to find creative ways to use our schools as community centers and as places to engage our parents to play a critical role in their child’s education. We must find thoughtful ways to think out of the box to mentor and remind our parents that the key to a child’s success is education. We must continue to work with every family, to ensure that every child, especially those with challenges are given the resources to be successful. We must explore more afterschool programs in reading, math, and STEM. We must also develop curriculum and programs for parents who desire to improve their own educational opportunities, which in my opinion will improve their child’s opportunities for success. That is right folks, I believe we must find ways to offer educational opportunities to our parents many of whom come from all over the world and they themselves have been denied a proper education.
Next I want to touch on Economic Development. As we know Waterbury saw amazing support from Governor Dan Malloy and his administration during his eight years in office, and we should all be eternally grateful for that. I am very proud to say that over this past year we have worked closely with Governor Ned Lamont and Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz to keep that commitment and enthusiasm going. Both Governor Lamont and the Lt. Governor have visited Waterbury on numerous occasions since being sworn in on January 20th of this year.
As most of you are aware the Governor has recently rolled out his latest version of the State Transportation Plan. I am urging all of you to follow it closely. In it are plans to dramatically improve our transportation infrastructure throughout this state. We must recognize and understand that modernizing our transportation system is a key component to moving this state forward. We must act now, right now, if we want our children and grandchildren to have opportunities here. You all have seen the dramatic positive impacts the 84 widening project has had in this city. It has spurred grand list growth which brings stabilization to our taxpayers, and unprecedented manufacturing growth resulting in good paying job opportunities, which has led to a ten-point drop in the city’s unemployment rate over the past eight years.
This new plan is an absolute game changer for our city and its residents. It will dramatically improve the rail line between here and Bridgeport, and ultimately Fairfield County to Manhattan. This plan is critical for tax stabilization and growth in every valley town. This plan will support at least four times the number of rail commuters than we have today, with ample opportunity to expand.
We as residents of our great state and city must recognize that we are falling behind our neighboring states. Residential and commercial real estate in Waterbury has seen steady increases in value over the past two years because now you can actually drive through Waterbury. There are many more new job opportunities, our homes and apartments are affordable, our neighborhood schools are improving, and our city is safe. This transportation plan is critical to the continuing success, forward movement, and economic growth of Waterbury. Do not be fooled by the naysayers, you as hard working middle class residents of this city are smarter than that. We have seen the hard times in this city and together we have fought our way back. Do not let them foil our opportunity for a better more competitive city and state. We must be courageous and we must be heard.
I also want to thank the members of the White Collar Union, the Blue Collar Union, the Fire and Police Unions, the Managers Union, and the Nurse Supervisors for agreeing to a one-year wage freeze during their respective contract negotiations. These employees are committed to their city, and their sacrifice has enabled this city to hold the line on property taxes the past several years.
Lastly, I want to thank the voters of Waterbury for showing their overwhelming confidence in the leadership this administration has brought to Waterbury these past eight years. November 5th was our fourth election, and I am very humbled and thankful for the overwhelming pluralities in each of those victories. Together we have accomplished so much over the past eight years. We have avoided the partisan bickering that has plagued our federal and state governments in recent years. I will close by offering this quote by President John F. Kennedy which appears on a plaque in my office, and in your programs today."
" Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."
Members of the Waterbury Police Pipes and Drums accompanied O'Leary and other dignitaries into Veterans Hall.
The PAL Choir led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by singing, "God Bless America."
If O'Leary serves at least two years of his four-year term he will become the longest continuously serving mayor in city history.
Members of the Board of Aldermen were sworn in as well. From left to right are Kelly Zimmerman, Ernie Brunelli, Vernon Matthews Jr., Roger Sherman and Chris D'Orso. Other members sworn in were Mary Grace Cavallo, Victor Lopez Jr., Belinda Weaver, Michael Salvio, Paul Pernerewski Jr., Michael DGiovancarlo, Jetlir Kulla, George Noujaim, Brenda Cotto and Sandra Martinez-McCarthy.
Sandra Martinez McCarthy was elected Temporary President of the Board of Aldermen and when she reached the podium she stood for a moment and looked around the room before saying, "Excuse me if a take a minute to enjoy the moment."
Paul Pernerewski Jr. has served 18 years on the Board of Aldermen, the last ten as board president, and was unanimously re-elected by the board to lead them for another two years.
Brenda Cotto represents the 5th District in Waterbury and brought her 14-month-old granddaughter, Yasmine Cotto to the special event.
Members of the Board of Education were also sworn in at the ceremony. From left to right are Rocco Orso, Chuck Pagano, Ann Sweeney and Jason Van Stone. Elizabeth Brown was also sworn in as well.
U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes checked out the Mounted Patrol of the Waterbury Police Department as she left Waterbury City Hall.
Mayor O'Leary's sister Christine Murphy, an avid photographer and horse lover, stopped to visit with the Mounted Patrol.
Bag pipers lead the procession out of Waterbury City Hall.
Honor guards and color guards led the procession down Leavenworth Street towards the Green.
Waterbury Police Pipes and Drums paraded past Drescher's Restaurant on Leavenworth Street.
Waterbury police officer Justin DeVaull marching towards the Green
Leaders of the Waterbury Police Department striding across the Green. From left to right; Deputy Chief William Fox, Assistant Deputy Chief Edward Apicella, Chief Fred Spagnolo and Deputy Chief John Napiello.
O'Leary says he is motivated to continue the economic development projects he has launched during the first eight years as mayor, including the redevelopment of the Freight Street corridor and downtown development.
It was a great day for Neil O'Leary, who continues to command the city political landscape.