SOUTH PORTLAND — Three city councilors were sworn in and Mayor Misha Pride outlined goals for the coming year during a socially distanced inauguration ceremony Monday in the lecture hall at South Portland High School.

Acting City Clerk Alice Kelley administered the oath of office to newly elected District 1 Councilor Jocelyn Leighton, District 2 Councilor Kate Lewis and District 5 Councilor Deqa Dhalac. The seven-member council then elected District 3 Councilor Misha Pride to serve as mayor for the coming year.

Pride, an attorney with Drummond & Drummond, addressed the gathering via Zoom because he and his family are quarantining at home following a possible COVID-19 exposure, he said.

Pride acknowledged that the pandemic is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, then went on to highlight some of the city’s accomplishments this year.

“We can be thankful for the newly formed Human Rights Commission, and for residents Margaret Brownlee and Pedro Vasquez, and our own Councilor Dhalac who helped to bring it to fruition,” Pride said. “The formation of this committee was further supported by Chief (Tim) Sheehan volunteering funds from the police budget to fund the commission’s work.”

Misha Pride speaks via Zoom during South Portland inauguration

Mayor Misha Pride speaks via Zoom during South Portland’s inauguration on Monday. City of South Portland

Pride praised City Manager Scott Morelli and other municipal staff members who responded in various ways to the pandemic, including a major public health initiative and a grant program to support local businesses.

Looking ahead, Pride said the council “will continue the fight against climate change, and do everything possible to support the One Climate Future Plan. We believe in science, and science tells us that climate change is manmade and an existential threat. This Council will undoubtedly continue leading the way towards sustainability, reducing carbon emissions, and making sure our residents have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.”

Other issues on the council’s to-do list include promoting affordable housing, fighting homelessness, protecting open space, connecting neighborhoods and striving for greater diversity in municipal hiring and decision-making, Pride said.

“We want those who work in our community to be able to live in our community,” Pride said. “We want to keep our city green and make it more walkable, while maintaining the character of our communities. (And we) will continue to strive for more diversity in our staff and on our committees, and to make sure that equity considerations are a factor in our decision-making.  We will make it clear with our actions as well as our words that Black Lives Matter.”

As mayor, Pride said, he plans to facilitate open discussions among councilors and help find compromise when they disagree. He anticipated many intense challenges in the year ahead, with the pandemic potentially increasing food insecurity, evictions and other upheavals. Through it all, he said, the council must continue to be deliberate, thoughtful, agile and energetic.

“We must always remember that we act as a council,” Pride said. “Our leadership requires us to make sure that every voice is heard, and that we always make room in our discussions for those we disagree with or who have another point of view … I am confident that we will continue to work together, not only with civility, but with respect for each other, even when we disagree.”

Comments are not available on this story.