By Elizabeth F. McNamara

It was standing room only for the swearing in Monday night of the new Town Council and four new members of the School Committee. When Superior Court Judge Brian Stern (a resident) swore in the Town Council – returning Mark Schwager and newcomers Mike Donegan, Renu Englehart, Caryn Corenthal and Mike Zarrella – the room erupted in applause which bloomed into a standing ovation.

After they were sworn in, they held a brief meeting to elect a president and vice president. It was no surprise to anyone when the new council voted in Mark Schwager as its president. He replaces Sue Cienki, who lost her bid for re-election earlier this month. Now, after two years of being the lone man out in many votes, Schwager is going to be setting the agenda, and has a council of five Democrats.

Mike Donegan, former head of the Planning Board, was voted in as vice president.

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan was the master of ceremonies, bidding farewell to the councilors who brought her to East Greenwich and hired her three separate times to fill the town manager role while welcoming in the new council, which ran on a platform of getting rid of her.

In her remarks, Cienki told the new council, “You are about to embark on a terrific opportunity to govern the town. It will not be easy. You will have your critics. But public service is an honor and a privilege and I’m sure you will each rise to the occasion.”

Cienki had taken her final day in office to send out one last email missive to town residents – the third such message since the election. This one (Cienki Exit Letter 11/26/18) listed all the financial challenges facing the town and this parting shot:

“We know with 100% clarity, what the root causes of our financial challenges are. Will the new Council immerse themselves in the labor contract negotiations and educate themselves sufficiently on the economic impact to the residents, or acquiesce to skilled union negotiators who continue to use unpleasant techniques to apply financial and political pressure?”

Monday night, however, was a time for jubilation. After the four School Committee members were sworn in – returning Lori McEwen, and newcomers Gene Quinn, Alyson Powell and Anne Musella – the nine officials spent about 45 minutes greeting friends, family and town employees in a receiving line of hugs and laughter.

Among those in attendance were a few former East Greenwich employees who had lost their jobs over the past two years, including former Fire Chief Russ McGillivray (now working for the state Emergency Management Agency), and Finance Director Kristin Benoit (now finance director for West Warwick). Several firefighters, in addition to the color guard, also attended. 

The Town Council’s first regular meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall. The agenda will be posted Tuesday by 7 p.m.

Here are some photos from Monday:

The four new School Committee members are sworn in by Judge Stern, from right, Gene Quinn, Lori McEwen, Anne Musella and Alyson Powell.

EGHS and Cole students Petranea Smith, Julia Erickson, Josh Petteruti, Madison Siedliski and Abby White sing the National Anthem.

Town Manager Corrigan hugs Mary Ellen Winter after Sue Cienki congratulated Winters for her 12 years on the School Committee.

EGPD and EGSD Color Guards.

New Town Council elects Mark Schwager as president.

 

Councilman Mike Donegan greets Alexa Hangan and her dad, William Hangan, a member of the Board of Canvassers.

Anne Musella greeted by U.S. Rep. James Langevin.

New Councilman Mike Zarrella with his son, Michael, and his father, Gerry Zarrella.

Renu Englehart is greeted by Matt Wilkinson, who served on the School Committee for 8 years and Town Council for 4 years.

Outgoing School Committee member Yan Sun greets Lori McEwen and Anne Musella.

Mike Zarrella is greeted by his longtime friend Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

The newly sworn in Town Council and School Committee members: (seated from left) Mike Zarrella, Renu Englehart, Mike Donegan, Caryn Corenthal, and Mark Schwager; (standing from left) Alyson Powell, Gene Quinn, Lori McEwen and Anne Musella.

Swift Community Center was standing room only for Monday night’s swearing in.


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