Gina-Louise Sciarra sworn in as Northampton’s 45th mayor

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra gets sworn in by City Clerk Pamela Powers during the Northampton inauguration ceremony at the Academy Of Music Theatre on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra speaks during the Northampton inauguration ceremony at the Academy Of Music Theatre on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra gets sworn in by City Clerk Pamela Powers during the Northampton inauguration ceremony at the Academy Of Music Theatre on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra speaks during the Northampton inauguration ceremony at the Academy Of Music Theatre on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra gets sworn in by City Clerk Pamela Powers during the Northampton inauguration ceremony at the Academy Of Music Theatre on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra gets sworn in by City Clerk Pamela Powers during the Northampton inauguration ceremony at the Academy Of Music Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, the mistress of ceremonies, during the Northampton Inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Karen Skolfield, the Northampton Poet Laureate, during the Northampton Inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rio Santos, the Northampton youth Poet Laureate, during the Northampton Inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra listens as Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian introduces Sciarra at the Northampton Inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, the mistress of ceremonies, during the Northampton Inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, the mistress of ceremonies, during the Northampton Inauguration ceremony Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian and Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra have a moment after the Northampton Inauguration was over on Monday, Jan. 3 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2022 12:10:24 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Gina-Louise Sciarra became the 45th mayor of Northampton on Monday morning, replacing David Narkewicz after taking the oath of office during a small, COVID-restricted ceremony at the Academy of Music Theatre downtown.

City Clerk Pamela Powers administered the oath to a masked Sciarra, then the new City Council, School Committee, the boards of trustees for Forbes Library and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, and the Elector Under the Oliver Smith Will. Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the city canceled the inaugural celebration at the Look Park Garden House that was planned for Monday evening.

Organizers capped attendance at one-quarter of the Main Street venue’s occupancy limit and required masks, proof of vaccination and a photograph of a same-day negative COVID-19 rapid test in order to enter; event staff checked for vaccine cards and photos at the door. The general public was invited to watch a livestream produced by Northampton Open Media.

Sciarra, a former Ward 4 and at-large city councilor unanimously chosen as the council president in 2020, had worked full-time as the communications manager for the nonprofit organization Pathlight during her eight years in local government. She resigned from that position after winning the mayor’s race against Marc Warner in November.

“What makes Northampton special is that, time and time again, we step up. We do our part,” Sciarra said in her inaugural address, witnessed by Narkewicz and former Mayor Harry Chapman, who served from 1978-79 and sat in the front row. “There are so many people who routinely volunteer, contribute and take responsibility for our city.”

Sciarra said that some of the most critical projects underway in the city now, like the establishment of the Community Resilience Hub and the equitable distribution of federal pandemic relief funds, “have been and will continue to be” community-driven initiatives.

Addressing Narkewicz, Sciarra thanked him for his work providing long-term fiscal stability, shepherding in the changes to the city’s charter passed by voters in 2012, redesigning Pulaski Park and opening the city to the recreational marijuana industry.

“I especially want to thank him for his steady and compassionate leadership through one of the biggest and sustained challenges we have faced these last, almost, two years of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sciarra said. “Thank you for all you have done, and given, and sacrificed.”

Sciarra said that Northampton should be an affordable place to live and that public resources like the city’s schools should be “open and accessible to all.” She emphasized a vision for the city based on equitability, fiscal stability and an aggressive timetable for carbon neutrality in government operations.

“Have faith in Northampton. I know I do,” Sciarra said. “There’s no place I know of where the people do more to make democracy work or do more for each other, or care more about their city and its responsibility to the larger world.”

Also inaugurated on Monday were five reelected members of the City Council — Karen Foster of Ward 2, James Nash of Ward 3, Alexander Jarrett of Ward 5, Marianne LaBarge of Ward 6 and Rachel Maiore of Ward 7 — and four newcomers — at-large councilors Jamila Gore and Marissa Elkins, Stanley Moulton of Ward 1 and Garrick Perry of Ward 4.

During an organizational meeting in the afternoon, the City Council elected Nash as its president in a 5-4 vote over Maiore and unanimously chose Foster as vice president.

Two new members of the School Committee — at-large member Aline Davis and Michael Stein of Ward 4 — did not attend the inaugural ceremony. Powers said they will need to set up times to come to City Hall and take the oath. The remaining seven elected members were sworn in, as were two Forbes Library trustees, three Smith Vocational trustees and the new Smith Elector, Mimi Odgers, who defeated longtime elector David Murphy in his latest reelection bid.

Sciarra, in her role as mayor, will serve as chair of the School Committee and the Smith Vocational trustees.

“Working together with my colleagues, I know we can do great things for our students, teachers and staff, and we will continue to meet the challenges the pandemic has created,” Sciarra said, “as well as the other pressures on this most important public service of educating and caring for the social and emotional wellbeing of the students of Northampton.”

Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, the ceremony’s emcee, said that she walked around the city asking people to describe Sciarra in a short phrase. Before Sciarra delivered her address, Ayvazian read the results of her informal survey, ticking off a long list that included “visionary,” “diligent,” “trustworthy,” “hard-working” and “a role model for my daughters.”

“We know that the usually wonderful residents of Northampton can, on occasion, be a teeny-weeny bit cranky,” Ayvazian said before handing Sciarra the list on a laminated sheet of paper. “So when your dear constituents are grumpy … read this and be fortified. You got this, my dear, and you got us.”

Speaking to all of the elected officials in the room, Ayvazian said the city trusts them “to lead with grace and courage, and we also hope your conscience is disturbed should you fail to hear the voices of those on the margins of power and influence in our community.”

Monday’s ceremony featured readings by Karen Skolfield, Northampton’s poet laureate, and Rio Santos, the city’s youth poet laureate. Su Su Min Aung, representing the Center for New Americans, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Rev. Dr. Peter Ives, retired pastor of First Churches, and Tapestry clinician Jenny Fleming-Ives offered an invocation to open the ceremony while Rabbi Justin David of Congregation B’nai Israel offered a benediction at the end.

On Sunday, Narkewicz tweeted, “Happiness is realizing that when you were sworn in as mayor ten years ago all five mayors in Berkshire, Franklin, and Hampshire County were men and that after tomorrow’s inaugurations all five of those mayors will now be women.” The five mayors are in the cities of Northampton (Sciarra), Easthampton (Nicole LaChapelle), Greenfield (Roxanne Wedegartner), North Adams (Jennifer Macksey) and Pittsfield (Linda Tyer).

Sciarra is the third woman ever elected mayor of Northampton.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
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