PORTLAND — Mayor Michael Brennan, who was sworn in Monday as the city’s first elected mayor since 1923, told Portlanders in his inaugural address that he can succeed only with their help.

“I want, more than anything else, to have all of you engaged with me in a process of moving people forward,” Brennan said to a crowd of more than 300 people at the Ocean Gateway passenger ship terminal. “My success will also be your success, and I can only be successful with you.”

The speech, which lasted about 40 minutes, focused on broad principles and values and avoided specifics. It was laced with humor, as Brennan appeared relaxed and exuberant.

Brennan’s speech represented a historic change. For one thing, he will serve for four years rather than for one, the previous practice for Portland mayors.

The last time the city had a mayor elected by its residents, the Charleston was a new dance, Portlanders were flocking to see a new silent film by Cecil B. DeMille, “The Ten Commandments,” and Calvin Coolidge succeeded Warren G. Harding as president.

Since then, the mayor essentially has served as chair of the City Council. In recent years, the council chose a new mayor every year, usually giving the gavel to the most senior member who had yet to serve.

David Brenerman, who was mayor in 1985, said it was always a challenge in the inaugural address to lay out a vision for just one year.

“We could only talk about small things,” he said. “Now, we can look forward toward four years and what we can get done.”

In his speech, Brennan laid out his vision for how he will lead the city as its most visible elected official. He spoke about the value of education and told the story of his grandmother, an Irish immigrant who cleaned houses in the West End and raised four children after her husband died, sending all four to college.

Maintaining quality schools is important to the city’s economic well-being and keeping families in the city, he said.

He said he wants to take advantage of the number of immigrants in the city to establish a foreign language immersion program for Portland students. Also, repeating an idea from his campaign, he said he would collaborate with local research and higher education institutions to create a “research triangle.”

“If we are able to do that, we will transform the Greater Portland economy,” he said.

He said the city must be careful about any new development to make sure it provides a long-lasting improvement over what it replaces. He cited Union Station, which he visited as a child and thought was a beautiful building, and its destruction 50 years ago to make way for a strip mall.

As the city looks at proposed development of the waterfront, for example, officials must take the long view and consider how their decisions would affect future generations.

Brennan made it clear he will move fast to change the status quo. He said the City Council will hold a workshop Dec. 12 to discuss whether to revamp its committees.

On Wednesday, at his first City Council meeting, Brennan will have to decide whether to give Occupy Maine a permit to continue its encampment in Lincoln Park. He spoke positively about the Occupy Maine movement, although he did not indicate how he would side on the permit issue. He said people should not forget the movement’s message.

“We live in a country that has significant and tremendous income disparity,” he said. “There is too much poverty.”

The crowd applauded loudly.

Shane Blodgett, 21, who has been living in Lincoln Park since Oct. 8, came to hear Brennan’s speech. He said he was heartened by Brennan’s speech and his comments about the movement.

City Councilor John Anton praised Brennan’s speech. “Mike is challenging the council to come together and take our game up a level.”

Brennan’s uplifting message on values was well received by the diverse audience; his challenge will be translating those values into the city budget, said City Councilor Ed Suslovic.

At least nine of Brennan’s 14 opponents in last month’s election attended the event, which included a performance by the Portland-Deering-Casco Bay High School Orchestra.

Brennan thanked his election opponents for running and bringing forward their ideas.

Peter Bryant, whose platform highlighted the return of heavy-item trash pickup, which was eliminated a couple of years ago by budget cuts, sat in the front row. Bryant leaped to his feet when Brennan said he would bring back heavy-item pickup.

Former Gov. Angus King, a resident of Brunswick, came to the event, saying he believes an elected mayor is important not only for Portland but also for the state, because the city plays such a critical role in Maine’s economy.

“This is a big step for Portland and for Maine, and I want to be here,” he said.

Earlier in the day at City Hall, Brennan was sworn in by City Clerk Katherine Jones.

Before the ceremony, outgoing Mayor Nicholas Mavodones urged the city’s elected officials to support the new mayor, who will be under intense scrutiny in coming months.

“He’s going to do an incredibly good job for the city of Portland,” said Mavodones, who finished third in the race for mayor.

Brennan said he sees his role as leading the debate on policy matters and building coalitions.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]