By Melissa Fili
MethuenLife Writer

Methuen’s historic past met a trail-blazing future during the city’s Jan. 3 inauguration ceremony.

Our newly elected officials – including the city’s first two Hispanic city councilors – were publicly sworn in to office at the 115-year-old Methuen Memorial Music Hall, still dressed in its Christmas best.

City Clerk Anne Drouin administered the Oath of Office to Mayor Neil Perry, city councilors, Methuen School Committee members and Methuen representatives of the Greater Lawrence Technical School, as well as Housing Authority and Nevins Memorial Library Trustees. Thirteen incumbents were returned to their duties and, of the nine newcomers, five have never held elected office in Methuen. In attendance were our elected state officials, including state Rep. Ryan Hamilton who served as emcee, as well as Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger and Lawrence Mayor Brian DePena.

Alongside the glow of a massive Christmas tree and beneath the gaze of a Santa-capped bust of Bach, Mayor Neil Perry opened his inaugural address by pointing to Essex County District Attorney Paul Tucker and stating with emotion in his voice, “Thank you for helping restore faith in government. It means a lot.”

Tucker brought charges against former Police Chief Joe Solomon and former Detective Sean Fountain following allegations of fraud.

“As I stand before you tonight, embarking on what is to be my third and final term as your mayor, I’m filled with profound gratitude for the opportunity to serve and a resolute sense of purpose to finish what I started in my first two terms,” he said.

He noted these highlights over the past four years:     

     *The bond rating increased four times.

     *Cash reserves, totaling $20 million, are at an all-time high.

      *Fostering a culture of fiscal responsibility.

He credited Methuen’s “transformation” to “a collective journey in a collaboration of vigilant City Council, excellent department heads and dedicated employees.”  

“Today, as we stand on this sturdy foundation, the time is right to build upwards, to elevate Methuen to new heights. Our focus now shifts from harnessing our financial stability to foster growth, innovation and prosperity for all,” he said.

His goals include:

     *Continued investment in schools.

     *Enhancing public services.

     *Significant infrastructure improvements including completing a feasibility study and beginning construction of a new Department of Public Works site and finding a location to build a new public safety complex for our police and fire departments.

     *Continuing to pave roadways and improve sidewalks.

     *Continued support for small-business owners and entrepreneurs.

“Let us not forget the heart of Methuen is its people. Our diversity is our strength,” Perry said. “In this term, we will continue to foster a community that is inclusive, respectful and supportive of one and all.

“As your mayor, I pledge to lead with integrity, passion and an unwavering commitment to make Methuen a haven for our citizens and a destination for others.”

A lifelong city resident, Perry ran for mayor in 2019 with “a sense of duty to restore integrity to government.” He says his passion to lead Methuen remains, “despite my frail appearance” after dealing with a myriad of health issues. He says he ran in 2023 “to finish what I started on so many fronts and that’s what I intend to do.”

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio, a former state rep and senator from Methuen, noted the criticism and challenges that come with elected office.

She told the crowd, “These folks have made the decision to make that sacrifice, to be public with their lives, to make those tough decisions, to do the hard work alongside their jobs and their family lives … Thanks for everyone for stepping up and putting themselves out there to serve.”

In his benediction, the Rev. Nathaniel Burnes offered a blessing for all of Methuen’s elected officials: “Give them the strength to continue the journey. … Teach us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and this will be a better community.”

At the City Council’s first official meeting, incumbent Central District Councilor Joel Faretra was elected chairman and newcomer Neily Soto, an East District councilor, was chosen as vice chair.

Incumbent At-Large Councilor DJ Beauregard was again chosen to act as acting mayor should the need arise. Soto and Patricia Valley of the West District are the city’s first Hispanic councilors (full story in our January issue).