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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    New Norwich City Council, Board of Education sworn in Tuesday

    Norwich ― The new Democratically-controlled City Council and Board of Education were sworn in Tuesday night, followed by new appointments to council committees reversing the previous Republican control of those bodies.

    It’s the third time this year that party control has flipped on the City Council. Democrats held their first one-member majority after the 2021 election. But Republicans took a one-vote majority following Republican Bill Nash’s election in a special election in May to fill a vacant seat that had been held by a Democrat.

    On Nov. 7, voters elected four Democrats and two Republicans to the council, while Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom, a voting member of the council, is in the middle of his four-year term and was not on the ballot. Only Democratic Alderwoman Shiela Hayes, a longtime youth, civil rights and education advocate in Norwich, is new to the council.

    Hardly a newcomer to council chambers, Hayes, 65, has attended most council and Board of Education meetings over the years, speaking her opinions on many topics.

    “This will be different,” Hayes said. “This will be the first time I’ll be on the other side, listening to speakers instead of giving my comments.”

    In his brief remarks following the swearing-in ceremonies, Nystrom stressed the need for the council to work together, overcoming their differences, and to work with Norwich’s legislative delegation on issues.

    “It is just so important that we maintain our strength,” Nystrom said. “Our strength is that we work as one team. That’s the way we can grow. That’s the way we can succeed.”

    The council voted unanimously to reappoint Democratic Alderman Joseph DeLucia as council president pro tempore, a position he has held since the 2021 election. By charter, the appointment has a two-year term, so DeLucia retained the post after Republicans took the council in May.

    But following the May election, the council reassigned committee membership, giving Republicans majorities on the three-member committees.

    On Tuesday, re-elected Democratic Alderman Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, newly elected Democrat Hayes and re-elected Republican Stacy Gould were named to the Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee.

    DeLucia, newly elected Democrat Mark Bettencourt, who had served five terms previously on the council, and Republican Nash were named to the Public Safety Committee.

    And Republican Gould joins Democrats Bettencourt and Hayes on Appointment and Reappointments Committee.

    With the Nov. 7 election, Democrats increased their majority on the Board of Education, winning six of the nine seats. Democrats Mark Kulos, Carline Charmelus, Gregory Perry, Kevin Saythany, Ella Myles and John Iovino and Republicans Christine DiStasio, Heather Fowler and Christina Milton were sworn in as school board members.

    Myles, a former alderwoman, Iovino, a retired Norwich Free Academy educator, and Milton are new to the school board.

    Republican treasurer Robert Buckley, who ran unopposed, also was sworn in Tuesday.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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