ABOVE: Holding an official document, state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, administers the oath of office to Democrat Edward M. O’Brien as West Haven’s 11th mayor during the inauguration of city officials Sunday afternoon, Dec. 1, on the steps of City Hall. O’Brien is accompanied by his wife, Roberta Madden O’Brien, right, and children, Caitlin, 18, and David, 13, behind Slossberg. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
O’Brien sworn in as West Haven’s 11th mayor
WEST HAVEN — Democrat Edward M. O’Brien formally began his inaugural two-year term as mayor of Connecticut’s youngest city after being sworn in at a ceremony early Sunday afternoon, Dec. 1, on the steps of City Hall.
On a partly sunny, seasonably cool day, O’Brien, 49, was administered the oath of office by state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, in front of several hundred dignitaries and well-wishers gathered on Main Street, which was cordoned off by police during the inauguration of city officials. He was joined onstage by his wife of 26 years, Roberta Madden O’Brien, and children, Caitlin, 18, a freshman at the University of Tampa, and David, 13, an eighth-grader at Bailey Middle School.
Among those in attendance were U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., state Reps. Stephen D. Dargan, D-West Haven, Louis P. Esposito Jr., D-West Haven, and Paul Davis, D-Orange, as well as North Haven First Selectman Michael J. Freda. Attorney Vincent N. Amendola Jr. served as master of ceremonies.
O’Brien defeated four-term incumbent Mayor John M. Picard, a Democrat who ran as a write-in candidate, and Republican Bart Chadderton in November’s election.
O’Brien, a 1982 graduate of West Haven High School, is the 11th mayor of West Haven since the General Assembly incorporated it as a city in 1961.
In his 10-minute inaugural address, O’Brien thanked his family and supporters and outlined a number of goals for the next two years, such as revitalizing downtown, improving city finances by increasing revenues and preserving its commercial base, and attracting development to the areas of the train station and Boston Post Road.
“The Center is the microcosm of the entire city, and we need to get back the foot traffic and sense of community,” O’Brien said.
He added: “Transit hubs and the Post Road are economic engines for cities and towns from Maine to Florida. We will make that true for West Haven as well!”
O’Brien promised to initiate a citywide cleanliness program.
“For too long our city has gone unkempt, reducing our ability to attract new residents, businesses and visitors,” he said. “We need to make our city more attractive, and I will lead by example.”
O’Brien vowed to enhance the education system, noting that it is “one of the first things families look for when deciding to move to a city.”
“We must elevate our standings in the state and federal rankings in education,” he said. “I will provide the Board of Education and the superintendent of schools with the tools needed to ensure the children of West Haven are provided the best education possible.”
O’Brien, who touted that West Haven “has some of the finest men and women in law enforcement,” also promised to work with Police Chief John Karajanis Jr. to ensure that “we … feel safe when walking in our neighborhood, along our beaches and shopping downtown.”
After congratulating his fellow elected officials, O’Brien closed his speech to much laughter, joking, “In the holiday season, we count our blessings; in West Haven, we recount them!”
The inauguration commenced with a procession led by the West Haven Police Color Guard, followed by a mayoral honor guard composed of chiefs and deputy chiefs of the Police Department and three fire departments. The 48-minute ceremony featured patriotic musical selections by the West Haven High School Band directed by Cassandra K. Marcella and a selection by Teddey Brown, “This Is the Moment.” The Pledge of Allegiance was led by members of Cub Scout Pack 115 and Junior Girl Scout Troop 60559. James and Tracy Morrissey’s 21-year-old daughter, Caitlin Morrissey, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The event also included an opening prayer by the Rev. Mark R. Jette, who serves St. Lawrence and St. Paul churches, and a closing prayer by Victor M. Borras of Gateway Christian Fellowship.
The city charter mandates that all elected officials take the oath of office on the first Sunday in December.
Probate Judge Mark J. DeGennaro swore in incumbent Democratic City Clerk Deborah Collins, and attorney Jerome A. Lacobelle Jr. swore in incumbent Democrats Tax Collector Marianne E. Gambardella and Treasurer C. Jane E. Heffernan.
DeGennaro also swore in the nine incumbents and four newcomers on the City Council. Returning council members are Nicholas A. Pascale, D-1; Mitchell L. Gallignano, D-4; Brent Watt, D-5; James P. O’Brien, D-6; Nancy R. Rossi, D-7; Tracy A. Morrissey, D-8; Michael P. Last, D-9; Gail S. Burns, D-10; and Stephen W. DeCrescenzo, D-At Large. New to the council are Nicholas W. Ruickoldt, D-2; Ralph A. Eberle, D-3; Sean P. Ronan, D-At Large; and David Riccio, R-At Large.
At an organizational meeting Monday night, Dec. 2, Pascale was appointed chairman of the City Council, succeeding DeCrescenzo. Burns was elected the council’s majority leader, and Riccio was voted minority leader. Charles Marino, a former Democratic councilman of the 3rd District, was elected clerk of the council for a second term.
Lacobelle swore in members of the Board of Education, including incumbent Democrat Mark P. Palmieri, elected Democrats James W. Morrissey and Rosemary Russo and Republican newcomer Rosa Richardson.
The school board, whose organizational meeting also was Monday night, Dec. 2, appointed Republican Patricia B. Libero its new chairman, succeeding Palmieri. Libero previously served as secretary-treasurer. James Morrissey was elected the board’s vice chairman, and Democrat Betsy Heffernan Davis was voted secretary-treasurer.
Lacobelle also swore in incumbent Republican Ralph P. Biondi and elected Democrats Nicole Aceto and Eric Camilo Murillo to the Board of Assessment Appeals.
O’Brien is a former longtime owner of GoldWorks at 499 Campbell Ave., a jewelry repair and retail shop nestled in the heart of the downtown business district across from City Hall.
O’Brien is a former three-term councilman who was elected to the City Council in 2005 and served as chairman of the 2009-11 session. As an at-large councilman, he served a stint as majority leader and was chairman of the Redevelopment Committee and the Streets and Squares Committee. He also sat on the Education Committee and the Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.
O’Brien lives on Platt Avenue in West Shore with his wife and children.
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