NL's mayoral era begins

Monday was a day of historic significance for the city of New London and of satisfaction for this newspaper. For several years and through two failed attempts, The Day persisted in its editorial arguments that New London suffered from a lack of focused leadership. We contended that only a mayor, directly elected by the citizens and with the powers to drive policy, could fill this leadership void.

In November 2010 city voters, when finally given a clear choice, overwhelmingly approved a charter change that replaced the city manager form of government with a mayoral system. It was a decision that invigorated the political process. The mayoral candidates held several debates, attracting large audiences. The campaign discussion focused on policy proposals with stark differences among candidates.

The victor, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, was sworn in Monday night during ceremonies at the Garde Arts Center. Mayor Finizio's campaign for mayor generated enthusiasm in a city eager for change. He has promised to run an administration that will be inclusive, transparent and where special interests will not hold sway.

Mayor Finizio said his election meant the end to machine politics. While overstated - the Democratic machine had long ago gone rusty in New London - the pronouncement was instructional. Though a Democrat in a city long dominated by the party; the new mayor was sending a message that ideas, not connections, will direct the policy debate in New London.

Of course, now comes the hard part - governing. We fully expect there will be missteps, controversies and disappointments, in fact there has been some of that before our new mayor officially took office. But far more important is the optimism and the opportunities this change in governance will provide.

With his solid victory in a field of six candidates, Mayor Finizio begins with a strong base of support. He brought many people who did not have prior experience in political organizing into his campaign. Now they have to temper their expectations with the reality that progress in development, education, improving the city's neighborhoods and continuing the revival of its downtown will not come quickly, particularly in this economy.

Defeated candidates and their supporters must set the election aside. While debate and disagreement are part of the process, it will do the city no good to undermine its new mayor at every turn. Now is a time for unity.

As Mayor Finizio said in his inaugural address, "All of us must be part of the process. All of us must be willing to work hard."

We wish good fortune to Mayor Finizio and the newly elected council and school board members as they begin their terms and strive to make New London a better place.

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