Browse By

Briefings: Sixth Term Plans Remain Foggy as Springfield Places Crown on Sarno Again…

Sarno inauguration.

Investment begets investiture. (WMP&I)

SPRINGFIELD—Mayor Domenic Sarno began his six term of office Monday alongside the City Council with promises to deliver essentially what he campaigned on: the status quo. His less than 20 minute address thanked family, friends and supporter and list many of his accomplishments in prior terms. Nearly all of the City Council took the oath just before Sarno did.

The event was small, occurring in the elegant Mahogany Room, a function space on Symphony Hall’s second floor. Prior mayoral inaugurals have been in the main hall below, Old First Church, or even in the Council Chamber on the other side of the municipal group. But as with his campaign, Sarno gave little indication what to expect from his sixth term in office. There was “vision,” but no definition thereto.

“My vision for the next four years will continue to build upon the tremendous advancements, initiatives, growth, and economic renaissance we’ve experienced since I first took office 16 years ago,” the mayor said.

Sarno won reelection in what appears to be the most expensive mayoral contest in the city’s history. After a five-person field slimmed down to two candidates—Sarno and then-Councilor Justin Hurst—the incumbent prevailed by 15 points.

It was a stomping victory and yet considerably closer than his prior reelections. Hurst had difficult expanding outside his initial coalition and a vote-buying scandal hobbled him in the race’s final days.

The mayor dropped about a half million dollars that appeared designed to play up his hominess and steady hand. Yet, he offered almost no hint of what he wanted to accomplish in the new term other than promising, vaguely, to continue doing what he had always done.

Consequently, his inaugural speech sounded much like those of prior years. This year’s inauguration was billed as “historic” just as the one four years ago was when Sarno broke an actual record. As in prior years, he noted that his wife, Carla, was the mayor of their Carroll Street home, not him. Covid response was in. CRRC was out.

Domenic I

No need to repaint the portrait. (created via Business West & Hyacinthe Rigauld’s Louis XIV images)

Despite the city’s record homicides in 2023, the mayor offered nothing new or any correction. Stranger still, despite this record and his habit of touting himself as a public safety mayor, the issue had no particular prominence.

The mayor spoke after a parade of clerical invocations, greetings from US Representative Richard Neal, the oath for City Council, and the mayor’s own re-installation. Standing with Sarno were his wife and their two daughters—whose ages were in single digits at his first coronation.

“I taught him everything he knows about being a mayor,” former governor’s councilor, judge and mayor Mary Hurley said before placing the crown—er, administering the oath.

After the inaugural business, city councilors, including freshman Jose Delgado and Brian Santaniello, retired to City Hall for their organizational meeting. As expected, the Council formally installed Ward 2 Councilor Michael Fenton as president. The once and now-again president secured his colleagues’ support in an informal caucus last month.

At-large Councilor Tracye Whitfield missed the inauguration at Symphony Hall. City Clerk Gladys Oyola administered her oath earlier that day. Whitfield told The Republican she intentionally skipped the mayoral event. However, she attributed her absence during the vote to elect Fenton president a scheduling error.

Whitfield was present for Council Vice-presidential vote. Councilors elected Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards to another one-year term as the body’s Veep. Whitfield abstained.

Edwards and Fenton gave brief remarks after the presidential voting concluded. The Council’s Veep appeared to allude to certain attacks he has endured in recent weeks.

Mike Fenton

Back to the future! (WMP&I)

Fenton’s remarks were a bit more universal. Still, they were an implicit rebuke of recent complaints about representation in  Springfield. He celebrated the diversity of the city and its City Council, asserting its membership drew from all walks of life.

“The last time I was sworn in as council president and, recollecting on the speech that I gave at that time, I said then something that I still believe today, which is that Springfield’s diversity is absolutely its greatest strength,” he said. “for those of you who are here todayto witness our organizational meeting, that diversity is on full display in the council chamber.”

There is no sense of immediate discord in Council chambers. But discontent percolates and there are brewing investigations into the vote-buying accusations. Springfield, or at least its political conversation, simmers on.