In his inaugural address, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling called on city residents and interest groups Monday to come together and help harness the strong currents of change that have prompted anxiety from some sectors of the city.

Strimling told a crowd of nearly 200 people that change is inevitable in Maine’s largest city and economic center. The goal is to be inclusive, progressive and positive.

“We who live by the sea understand that fearing and resisting this change are as futile as trying to hold back the tide,” Strimling said. “We must welcome change, but not as our new master.”

Strimling, 48, formally took office as Portland’s full-time mayor during Monday’s inauguration in a filled Council Chamber at City Hall. He delivered his inaugural address in the evening at the city-owned Ocean Gateway Terminal. The event featured live jazz music and a girls’ choir.

Three city councilors also were sworn in during the afternoon ceremony.

Strimling is the second person to assume the role of elected, full-time mayor since the position was created by city voters in 2010. The first was Michael Brennan, 62, who was unseated by Strimling in the Nov. 3 election.

While Brennan often operated independently of the City Council and lost the support of key councilors during his four-year term, Strimling has promised to redefine the role by working more closely with the council.

Strimling, whose campaign focused on listening at a time when residents are increasingly turning to referendums to enact city policy, said he hopes the coalition that helped him win the campaign – labor unions, business groups, elected officials, the city staff, immigrants, Democrats, Republicans and Greens – will also help him lead the city.

“Your voice will be heard,” he said. “Together, we will develop a shared vision for the future of this great city.”

He admitted that he can’t please everyone, but assured all that their voices will be heard.

Strimling highlighted his campaign goal of permitting 2,000 new housing units within the next five years. With vacancy rates nearly at zero, rents are rapidly rising and middle-income earners are being priced out of the city, he said.

“This lack of quality, affordable housing, especially in the downtown area, has reached crisis proportions,” he said, tying it to greater economic development goals of attracting businesses and a skilled workforce.


Strimling said he would concentrate on making sure Portland, which regularly makes national Top 10 lists, is a great place for everybody to live, whether it’s for young people, old people, newly arrived immigrants or longtime residents.

“As your mayor, that’s where I intend to devote my time and energy,” he said.

He also talked about the importance of education, whether it’s renovating schools, adopting citywide pre-kindergarten or forming a stronger partnership with the University of Southern Maine.

Strimling also mentioned Gov. Paul LePage, who has targeted Portland over funding for asylum seekers and homeless shelters. Unlike Brennan, who frequently criticized LePage and tried to hurt Strimling by suggesting he was the governor’s top choice, Strimling struck a more conciliatory tone.

Coincidentally, LePage was in Portland on Monday for public events.

“During the campaign, some people even suggested I might sit and listen to Gov. LePage,” he said, to laughter. “You know what? I probably will,” he said to a smattering of applause.

“But will I agree with Gov. LePage on most things, or will he agree with me? Probably not,” he added. “But that’s exactly the point. There are a lot of competing interests in this city.”

Shortly after being sworn into office, Strimling praised Brennan’s commitment to the city, especially in helping the most vulnerable, whether the homeless or immigrants. He described Brennan, who did not make any remarks aside from running the meeting, as a “man of substance, a man of ideas and a man compassion” with an “unparalleled” commitment to the city.

“He has given everything one could ask, and for that, I want us all to say, ‘Thank you,’ one last time,” Strimling said.


Councilors and City Manager Jon Jennings also praised outgoing Councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall, whose legacies include robust housing and transportation policies, as well as environmental initiatives such as a ban on plastic foam containers, a 5-cent fee on single-use bags and a sustainability plan.

At-large Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, who was sworn in for his seventh three-year term, called Donoghue “incredibly smart and principled,” while Councilor Jon Hinck described Marshall as “the kind of person who opens up government for all kinds of folks,” especially those without wealth and influence, including artists, the homeless and refugees. Also inaugurated were Belinda Ray, as the new District 1 councilor, and Spencer Thibodeau, as the new District 2 councilor.

The inauguration included a reading from the Quran by school board member Pious Ali, who gave the invocation. Rabbi Caroyln Braun delivered the benediction.

After the inauguration, the council approved a new set of rules that includes beginning meetings at 5 p.m. with a regular public comment period for non-agenda items at 7 p.m. Council agendas and meeting materials will be released two days sooner, on Wednesday as opposed to Friday afternoon.

Also approved was a new subcommittee structure, including a new Housing Committee, which is stacked with five of the nine councilors. That panel will address the housing shortage in the city. Subcommittees vet policy proposals and issue recommendations to the full council.

Three school board members were also sworn into office. Sarah Thompson begins another term as an at-large member, while Jenna Vendil and Holly Seeliger begin new terms representing Districts 1 and 2, respectively.