SOMERSWORTH — Mayor Dana Hilliard touted successes of the past eight years and shared a vision for the future Wednesday night as he was sworn for his fifth two-year term, which he has said will be his last.
“Over the past eight years we have reclaimed our spot, recaptured the confidence in ourselves and re-embraced the values as Hilltoppers, which is the strength of our success,” Hilliard said. “Our success to journey together with our neighbors of Rochester and Dover to build long-term sustainable partnerships, which will benefit us all in resolving issues which have no borders.”
The city’s newly elected and returning city councilors and school board members joined the mayor for the inauguration ceremony at Somersworth Middle School.
City Clerk Jonathan Slaven led the newly elected school district and municipal government leaders in reciting their oaths of office. The ceremony included performances by the middle and high school bands and choirs, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by an elementary school class, and a traditional dance was preformed by Indonesian dancers.
Hilliard, who will have served 10 years at the end of his new term, entered elected public service when he was 20. He served four terms in the New Hampshire House from 1993 to 1997 and from 2005 to 2008, and three terms on the City Council before first being sworn in as mayor in January 2014. Hilliard’s full-time job is director of school district operations in Somersworth School District, where he has spent 22 years in his career.
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It was an tense November election, with Hilliard facing challengers for the first time since he was first elected mayor. Hilliard received 41% of the vote, with challengers Crystal Paradis and Ken Hilton earning 30% and 29% of the vote, respectively.
Hilliard said he has helped oversee investments and capital improvement projects for road and city infrastructure, schools, parks and city services, including the investment into a $9 million state-of-the-art fire station. He said accomplishments like these helped Somersworth find its identity and chart its future.
Hilliard said he and city councilors hope to set Somersworth’s future path with the next city master plan. The formation of the Eyes on 30 Commission has been tasked with the planning and goal setting of what the city hopes to achieve by 2030.
“We are Hilltoppers, We are Somersworth,” Hilliard said. “We have a proud past, a bright future and we are on the move.”
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire, spoke at the event, congratulating Hilliard on his fifth term. He said inauguration night “is about the community, it’s about moving forward together.”
“I think (Dana Hilliard) is second to none in terms of the belief that he has and the positive vision that he has for the future of Somersworth,” Pappas said. “I have no doubt this is why voters selected him for a fifth term, and I am ready to work with him over the next few years, as with all the other leaders of this community, to make sure Somersworth has what it needs from Washington.”
New City Council sworn in
New and re-elected members of the City Council and School Board were introduced to the community Wednesday night.
Councilors Martin Pepin (Ward 1), Kenneth Vincent (Ward 20), Martin Dumont Sr. (Ward 3), Donald Austin (Ward 4), Richard Michaud (Ward 5) and Councilors at-large David Witham, Nancie Cameron and Matt Gerding were reelected to serve another term.
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The only newcomer to the council is Denis Messier, filling the seat of Paradis, the former councilor-at-large.
Cameron is chair of the Eyes on 30 Commission. She said there’s a lot to be excited about.
“We have so many beautification and development projects in the works that we’re looking forward to seeing through,” Cameron said. “The fire station, the armory, Aclara; it’s an exciting time for Somersworth.”
Witham said he sees the council as a “strong team” of people “poised to continue the momentum” of progress. In his 10 years on council, he has seen a lot of change.
“Somersworth is doing a damn good job, and I think we’re going to continue to do a damn good job,” Witham said. “I feel very comfortable that we can withstand whatever challenges may be in front of us, while we continue to deal with the ones that are already present. Issues like the homelessness issue don’t go away overnight, and while there’s been a lot of efforts by the Tri-Cities to at least help, it’s an issue that we as the Tri-Cities cannot solve alone.”
New School Board takes office
Board members Paul Hackworth Jr. (Ward 1), Barbara Wentworth (Ward 2), Susan Tierney (Ward 3), Todd Marsh (Ward 4), Mandy Demers (Ward 5), and at-large members Maggie Larson, Kari Clark and Mark Richardson were sworn in, and will have an initial meeting next week to decide a board chair.
There are several new faces on the School Board this year. Marsh and Larson are the only returning members this term.
Larson said while navigating the coronavirus pandemic the last two years have been incredibly challenging, she believes the district will continue to thrive and progress. She hopes in the coming term, more engagement between the district and the community can help make that happen.
“I’m ready to listen, understand, and get to work,” Larson said. “Our educators and staff are essential to public education and have worked tirelessly. We should support their efforts and honor their roles. Elevating the diverse voices within our community is a critical step towards representation in local governance.”
Marsh said he is grateful to again represent Ward 4 residents, and looks forward to overcoming the challenges ahead by working with the new members of the board.
“We can appreciate all that is great within our schools, including our teachers and support teams and acknowledge the need for continuous improvement,” Marsh said. “I am confident we will make the best of our moment … and provide the best education for our children possible.”