A small crowd of city officials and their guests gathered at Gloucester City Hall to ring in the new year with a new mayor Saturday afternoon, making the city one of the first in the state to inaugurate its local officials.
Mayor Greg Verga wore a face mask as he was sworn into office just after 1 p.m., along with city councilors and school committee members, before guests who sat at least 6 feet apart in a spacious auditorium.
“Scaling back inauguration day is a great disappointment to me personally and, I am sure, to all of those incoming members of the City Council and School Committee,” Verga in a statement prior to the ceremony. “Even so, it is our job to lead and we must lead by example.”
Framingham required attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken 48 hours before Saturday’s ceremony. Such COVID-19 safety protocols are being replicated elsewhere across the state, where inaugurations will continue over the next two days.
Amid a surge in cases statewide, communities have had to adjust plans by limiting attendance and requiring masks, moving ceremonies outdoors, or holding them remotely.
Massachusetts on Friday reported 21,347 new cases, and last week marked the grim milestone of more than 1 million infections since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Attendance will be limited at inauguration ceremonies scheduled for Sunday in Medford and Waltham, and officials in each city are encouraging the public to watch live-streams of the events, according to public statements.
Mayor Michelle Wu announced last week that Boston’s inauguration on Monday will be held outdoors and that the traditional evening celebration will be postponed until spring.
Only the city councilors’ close friends and family are invited to the inauguration, which will be streamed on YouTube at 10 a.m.
“We will be hosting the swearing-in ceremony with a scaled back program outdoors to celebrate our new and returning councilors while protecting our communities,” Wu said in a statement.
Everett and Worcester officials have closed Monday’s ceremonies to the public, and encouraged them to watch online. Salem will conduct its 10 a.m. ceremony entirely via Zoom, the city announced.
Governor Charlie Baker is scheduled to attend inauguration ceremonies on Monday in Lawrence and Haverhill, according to those communities, where veteran Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini will be sworn in for a 10th term.
While scaled back, inaugurations held Saturday still contained the pomp, pageantry, and promise of better times.
“For the next 729 days, I will wake up with just one mandate: to make Gloucester a better place tomorrow than it is today,” Verga said in his inaugural address.
A former school committee member and city councilor, Verga said his administration will look to move past the pandemic by taking advantage of state and federal fiscal resources.
He also pledged to work toward developing a “blue economy,” or one that draws on the ocean resources of the storied fishing port.
“My goal is to reset Gloucester in a form and fashion we will recognize,” Verga said. “A city reborn in its own image; an even better place to live, to work, and to visit. A place I will always be immensely proud to call my home. "
Verga also pledged to improve the city’s school, housing stock, and environmental sustainability.
In Framingham, new Mayor Charlie Sisitsky spoke of optimism for the city that voted in 2017 to change from a town form of government.
“The message is clear. People want us to do a better job governing, and it starts right here, right now,” Sisitsky said at the live-streamed ceremony. “I am here to work with you, so let’s get to work together.”
Sisitsky said he will focus on environmental sustainability, push for improved education and senior services, support economic development and recovery from COVID-19, and create a sense of transparency in City Hall.
He also asked residents to get vaccinated.
“Each and every one of us has the responsibility to our community, to front-line workers, to exhausted health care professionals, and to our loved ones that we get vaccinated and abide by the regulations. We want our children to remain in schools, our businesses to regain some of the devastating losses that they have incurred, and for our community to recover,” Sisitsky said.
In Western Massachusetts, a historic inauguration took place Saturday in North Adams. The city welcomed its first female mayor, Jennifer Macksey, along with its first transgender council member and first council member of color.
“I am proud, honored, and humbled to be your next mayor and the first female mayor of the city of North Adams,” Macksey said during a live-streamed ceremony, adding that her administration’s biggest challenge will be to regain local confidence in government.
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller took the oath for her second term as the city’s first female mayor in an auditorium at Newton North High School. City councilors and school committee members also took the oath of office.
“Our community must continue to evolve,” Fuller said. “Newtonians restore my faith in our shared future.”