New London - Residents voted for change, and Monday night they saw it.
In a ceremony that included the police department's color guard, the fire department's bagpipes and drums, an invocation, a benediction and a parade, Daryl Justin Finizio was sworn in as the first elected mayor in the city in 90 years.
More than 650 people poured into the Garde Arts Center to witness what many were calling a "historic" night for the city.
"Change has come to New London,'' said Finizio after newly appointed City Clerk Nathan Caron administered the oath of office. "We gather tonight in a unique and awe-inspiring moment in our city's history. Tonight we inaugurate not only a new government but a new era.''
Finizio praised residents for believing in change and voting for a "strong, principled, positive and, in this diverse community, yes, progressive leadership."
"I stand before you now, tonight, to say as plainly as I can that all my efforts, all my skills, all my best judgments are now completely in your service,'' he said.
Finizio soundly defeated five other mayoral candidates in the November election, becoming the city's first strong mayor in nearly a century. Charter changes approved by residents in 2010 give the mayor broad powers, including hiring all city employees. Finizio was elected to a four-year term.
"This is historic for New London. This is history,'' said Debra Pennuto, who brought her 5-year-old daughter, Gianna, to witness the event.
Although Pennuto lives in Groton, she attends the First Hispanic Baptist Church in New London and runs its social services center Encounters of Hope ("Encuentros de Esperanza").
"What happens has an effect on everything we do in New London," Pennuto said. "It's nice to know the new mayor's vision is in line with our church's vision. He will lead his people.''
Following the ceremony, which also included the swearing-in of the City Council and Board of Education, Finizio and his supporters spilled out of the Garde and into a mist-filled night. With police-car lights flashing and bagpipers playing "God Bless America,'' several hundred people marched down the center of State Street behind Finizio to a party at the Crocker House ballroom.
The night's festivities also included music by the New London High School concert band and the Sounding Brass Quintet, featuring Capt. Lewis Buckley, the former director of the U.S. Coast Guard Band. Democratic Town Committee Chairman William Satti was the master of ceremonies.
Prior to Finizio taking office, seven members of the City Council, including three incumbents, were sworn in to two-year terms. Michael Passero was elected president and Wade Hyslop president pro tem. Martin Olsen, the city's last ceremonial mayor who also ran for mayor, was given special recognition and presented with a ceremonial gavel.
The other councilors are Adam Sprecace, Anthony Nolan, Marie Friess-McSparran, Donald Macrino and John Maynard. Passero, Hyslop and Sprecace were all re-elected in November.
Board of Education
Six of the seven members of the Board of Education were also sworn in to two-year terms. They are Bill Morse and Jason Catala, both incumbents, and Delanna Muse, Sylvia Potter, Elizabeth Garcia Gonzalez and Margaret Curtin. Incumbent Barbara Major, who was unable to attend Monday's ceremonies, was sworn in to her second term on Friday.
Morse was elected president of the school board, Garcia Gonzalez vice president and Catala secretary.
"I want to see if there's going to be changes,'' said Chet Thomas of New London, who attended the ceremony to support new school board members Muse and Potter. "We need fresh blood. New blood. New ideas.''
The City Council will meet at 7 tonight at City Hall. The school board has scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School.