It’s been 88 years since Portlanders had a chance to celebrate the election of a mayor, and this translated into a huge crowd at Monday night’s inaugural reception for Mayor Michael Brennan.
The party at Ocean Gateway attracted more than 300 people, who squeezed into the grand room overlooking the harbor to hear the mayor’s first public address and wish him well.
In his speech before a crowd filled with politicians and community leaders, Brennan said he would focus on education and sustainable local initiatives during his four-year term.
Noting that 80 to 85 percent of Maine’s food is shipped in from out of state, Brennan said, “We are incredibly dependent on the rest of the country to feed us.”
He garnered applause when he said he would look for ways to help Portlanders buy more food from Maine farms.
Catered by the Barron Center and the Portland School Department, the party featured hot and cold appetizers, pastries, cut fruit and a chocolate fountain. (No word on whether any of it was sourced locally.) In what may have been a nod to Portland’s Prohibitionist past, the party lacked a bar and instead served coffee, tea and punch.
Entertainment came from Chipped Enamel, featuring Phillip Hoose, who won the National Book Award in 2009. One of the mayor’s sons, Ryan Brennan, along with Sadie Lloyd, also performed.
The crowd included former Gov. Angus King, former state Attorney General Steven Rowe and former state legislator Gerald Talbot.
Brennan’s wife, Joan Martay, his two sons and his daughter-in-law sat to the left of the podium during his speech. A number of his close relatives traveled to Maine for the event, including his sister Paula Goldberg, who lives in Missouri, his brother Dan Brennan, who lives in Florida, and his cousin Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who lives in Washington, D.C.
“I think he did a great job pumping us up and getting us to feel good about our future,” said Grace Valenzuela, who heads the multilingual program at Portland’s schools.
“I think we have so much the right leader in Michael,” Meri Lowry, who worked on Brennan’s campaign. “He’s so knowledgeable not only about Portland, but the Legislature. I think we’re incredibly lucky when really good people are ready to serve.”
Former Portland schools Superintendent Mary Jane McCalmon told me, “He is a gift to the city.”
Current councilors also expressed confidence in the new working relationship that will develop under an elected mayor. In the past, council members selected a mayor from their own ranks.
“I think the mayor’s job is going to be providing council guidance to make sure everybody’s rowing in the same direction,” said City Councilor Cheryl Leeman.
“I’m looking forward to the long-term leadership,” former mayoral candidate and City Councilor David Marshall told me. “We’ve got a good opportunity here.”
For his part, Brennan emphasized during his speech the interconnectedness of the issues faced by the city and the need to build coalitions to achieve results.
“The only thing that limits us is our lack of vision,” Brennan told the crowd.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org