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Somersworth officials sworn in, look to future

SOMERSWORTH — The city’s School Board members and City Councilors were sworn in Tuesday evening under the united message of non-partisanship, inclusivity, funding for schools and safety.

Sworn in by City Clerk Trish Harris were School Board members Maggie Larson, Matthew Hanlon, John O’Brien, Todd Marsh, Thomas McCallion, Steve Potter, Gerri Cannon, Coty Donohue, and Ed Levasseur, and City Council members Martin Pepin, Kenneth Vincent, Martin Dumont Sr., Don Austin, Richard Michaud, Nancie Cameron, David Witham, Crystal Paradis, and Matthew Gerding.

Members spoke of maintaining a government untouched by partisan politics, one meant to serve the constituents.

Returning Mayor Dana Hilliard stressed “while members of our team might not always agree … those who were elected to serve others instead of self or party ideology are true Hilltoppers.”

Three of the largest projects touched on by electees: Continuing to revitalize downtown Somersworth with the cultivation of “Little Indonesia,” building a new firehouse and hiring more police, and maintaining the scholastic achievements of city schools.

Mayor Hilliard introduced the initiative of “Little Indonesia,” a cultural initiative partnering with the nation of Indonesia to create a “welcome gate,” attracting Indonesian stores and restaurants, establishing a cultural center, and instituting a satellite Indonesian consulate.

“Somersworth has over 2,000 Indonesian citizens, the largest community north of Manhattan,” said Hilliard. “We were first approached two years ago by the Indonesian Community Connect (ICC). They wanted to donate an Indonesian welcome gate to our town. It really grew from there.”

In attendance were two emissaries from the Indonesian national embassy: First Secretary for Protocol and Consular Affairs Vitrionaldi, and Counselor for Media and Sociocultural Affairs Yudho Sasongko.

During the ceremony, 13-year-old Aaron Johan and David Irot led the pledge of allegiance in Indonesian, further demonstrating the growing bond between the cultures.

“It took me a day to learn,” said Johan, who is of Indonesian descent. “I’m so proud and happy about the new Little Indonesia, it is such a great thing the town is doing.”

Incumbent City Councilor Matthew Gerding and School Board member Gerri Cannon spoke of continuing the legacy of excellence in the schools in Somersworth.

“We need to continue that commitment, and also spread the word and celebrate that,” Gerding said, referring to the “Best Middle School” awarded in 2019 to Somersworth Middle School by the state.

Paradis wanted to stress accessibility and transparency.

“It may seem that some issues are confusing or not accessible — I want people to know they can reach out to us any time and to city management, who are so helpful.” Paradis whose background is communications and marketing is working to bring the town politics to the people of Somersworth through social media and the town website.

Mayor Hilliard spoke again of increasing the police force and cruisers in town, and building and staffing a new firehouse in 2020 as part of the initiative to increase safety to constituents and to “provide adequate tools to enable first responders to do their jobs.”


Read the original article (with photos) on Fosters.com