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Financial stability remains a top priority for Cohen

By Michelle Symington

MetroWest Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Upon taking the Oath of Office for his fourth term, Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen said that financial stability and balanced budgets have been, and will remain, a top priority for him in his new term.

"In this new term, I will continue to be the fiscal watchdog of our community," he said. "No program or issue will be expanded unless we can afford it."

He said that financial stability is what allows the city to have "a school system that is fully funded and public safety services that are second to none."

Cohen said the new Department of Public Works facility and a new Senior Center are two of the projects he will accomplish over the next two years.

In addition to ongoing projects, he said many programs and issues will arise that will concern the City Council and School Committee.

"I look forward to working with them. No one can do this alone," he said. "I look forward to the positive support of this Council and School Committee for a strong partnership that will lend itself to keeping Agawam strong."

He added that he has worked with local, state and federal officials to bring the city the "best" government it can have.

"As your mayor, I will always focus on making a positive difference in peoples lives," Cohen said. "I believe in inclusion an open, inviting and accessible style of leadership that gives every citizen the opportunity to feel the ownership of their local government."

Cohen said the local government has "integrity" and all of the elected officials are "hard-working and honest."

In addition to Cohen, the City Council and School Committee members were sworn in during the ceremony.

All 11 members of the City Council returned to serve another two-year term.

When introducing the City Council, Theroux saved Councilor Donald Rheault for last.

He said that Rheault has served on the Council and as the Council's president longer than anyone.

"There is a sound reason the voters continue to return a true leader to the Council," Theroux said.

The 11 City Councilors who returned to office are Rheault, George Bitzas, Robert Rossi, Dennis Perry, Gina Letellier, Robert Magovern, Ruth Carr-Bitzas, Robert Young, Joseph Mineo, Jill Simpson and Cecilia Calabrese.

Each of the School Committee members who ran for re-election returned to their seats.

Anthony Bonavita, former City Councilor, will fill the last seat on the Committee. That seat was formerly held by Susan Pettazzoni, who did not run for re-election.

School Committee members Bonavita, Rosemary Sandlin, Diane Juzba, Paul Cavallo and Roberta Doering were sworn in during the ceremony.

Committee member Linda Galarneau is returning to serve on the Committee but could not attend the inauguration ceremony.

When introducing the School Committee, Theroux, introduced Doering last and said that it is "a pleasure to welcome back someone who has educated and made sure they received everything they needed not only our children, but our children's children."

He also said that having the same government on stage two years ago "says something about each and every one on stage."

State Representative Daniel Keenan attended the ceremony to share some words of wisdom with the elected officials.

He said when elected officials begin a new term, they look back on what they have done and also look forward.

He added that officials sometimes take what they do and their responsibility for granted.

"It is an awesome responsibility," he said. "The most important responsibility is to look out for the citizens we represent."

Keenan said that he knows why all of the individuals stood on the stage because they "care about the community, the people in the community and want to be there for the community."

Having served in public office for 12 years, Keenan advised the local officials, to "cherish your time doing this public service."

American Legion Post 185 and the Sacred Heart Band participated in the ceremony.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Lt. Anthony Circosta, an Agawam resident who recently returned home from his duty in Iraq. The invocation was given by Rev. John Brennan of St. John's Church.