Amherst’s new, returning town councilors sworn in; Griesemer continues as president

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Members of the Amherst Town Council are sworn in Monday at Town Hall. PHOTO COURTESY OF DENNIS VANDAL

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2022 8:23:03 PM

AMHERST — Amherst’s second-ever Town Council, whose members better reflect the town’s ethnic and racial diversity, began serving the community Monday evening.

At a formal swearing-in ceremony preceding their first meeting at Town Room at Town Hall, six new councilors and seven returning councilors, almost all in person and wearing masks, took their oath of office from Town Clerk Susan Audette.

“It’s nice to see so many smiling faces,” Audette said as the councilors raised their right hands.

Before proceeding with mostly internal council business, including naming a president and vice president, discussing the rules of procedure, setting meeting dates and beginning appointments to council committees, councilors were photographed and received applause from invited guests.

Women make up 12 of the 13 seats on the council. Ellisha Walker is the lone new at-large councilor, joining holdovers Mandi Jo Hanneke and Andy Steinberg. Three of the five districts have one new representative, with Michele Miller elected in District 1, Jennifer Taub elected in District 3 and Ana Devlin Gauthier elected in District 5.

District 4 has two new councilors, Anika Lopes and Pamela Rooney, while District 2’s councilors, Pat DeAngelis and Lynn Griesemer, have both returned.

The remaining reelected councilors are District 1’s Cathy Schoen, District 3’s Dorothy Pam and District 5’s Shalini Bahl-Milne.

Griesemer, the only councilor nominated to serve as president, will continue in the role she has held since 2018. After being given unanimous support, she offered thanks to her colleagues for “the confidence you have placed in me.”

Devlin Gauthier was the only councilor nominated for vice president and was voted to the position unanimously. She succeeds former councilor Evan Ross in that role.

The council voted 9-3, with Pam abstaining, to have in-person meetings until April 1. Steinberg said having councilors in person, rather than virtual, will allow relationships to be built. The public will only be able to participate virtually, though, as a way to limit capacity in the meeting room. Councilors, too, will have the option to participate remotely.

In what Griesemer said could become a new tradition, she began the meeting with acknowledgment of the conch shell, the device that in the early days of the town’s history in the 18th century was used to summon people to town meetings.

At the end of the meeting, each councilor had an opportunity to offer comments to the community, with themes including the need to promote equity and social justice, take action on climate change and improve the town’s vibrancy.

Walker said she hopes to see the new council make substantial progress “to make our town a better and more inclusive place for people to live, work and thrive,” and cited her intent to serve everyone from “young and old, Black and brown, disabled and immigrant.”

“I’m looking forward to embracing the foundation that’s been laid by the first council, and working together with my colleagues to govern the Amherst community,” Miller said.

Lopes recognized those on whose shoulders she is now standing. “I’m fully committed to keep every door, window, elevator and portal open for every young person of color,” Lopes said.

“We share the same goal, which is to make the town the most vibrant, just and equitable community that it can be,” Taub said.

“I’m excited now in this new chapter to channel my love and respect for this town, this community, to build positive change alongside all of you,” Devlin Gauthier said.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for some good collaboration and some envisioning of what the town can be,” Rooney said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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