By LIZ BUTTON
Close to 200 friends, family members, political supporters and public officials filled the Rye City Council chambers and part of the hall on the morning of Jan. 5 to witness the inauguration of Republican Joe Sack as Rye City mayor.
Sack’s three “Rye United” running mates and new Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker, a Democrat and former city councilwoman, were also sworn-in at the ceremony.
Gray skies and freezing rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of those attending the ceremony, which was moved inside from its planned location on the steps of Rye City Hall due to the threatening forecast.
Former and sitting Rye judges administered the oaths of office to Sack and newly elected Councilwoman Kirstin Bucci, a Democrat, Republican Councilman Terry McCartney and re-elected incumbent Councilwoman Julie Killian, a Republican. All expressed hope and optimism for the four-year term that lies ahead.
Sack succeeds his biggest adversary on the City Council, Republican Mayor Douglas French, who left office at the end of 2013 after a four-year term. French did not attend the inauguration.
As the administration passes from French to Sack, the city faces big changes. The new mayor, who leaves his position as city councilman, was one of French’s most vocal opponents. Sack’s opinions on issues, policy and procedure often ran counter to French’s, and contentious City Council meetings exposed an apparent animosity between the two.
The 2013 election, in which Sack faced French’s deputy mayor, Councilman Peter Jovanovich, a Republican who ran as an independent, was viewed by some as a referendum on French’s administration as Jovanovich was French’s close political ally.
In Sunday’s speech, Sack, who was sworn in by retired city Judge Peter Lane, described his excitement for “a fresh start,” one especially necessary after the city has been strained by controversy over the last few years, including a financial scandal at the Rye Golf Club uncovered in October 2012 that became a major campaign platform last fall.
“We will make mistakes,” Sack said. “And when we do, we will acknowledge our missteps, learn from them and endeavor to fix them. And above all, we will tell the truth, without which there can be no credibility, which is the very basis of our government.”
Sack thanked his wife, Kerri, for her support during the campaign, and his mother, who was also in attendance, for giving him a strong sense of right and wrong. He said he believes he has the qualities needed to be an effective mayor: “A thick skin, a sense of humor and a heavy dose of humility.”
Along with the ascendance of Sack and a new City Council, the county also gained a new legislator in Parker, who attended her first Board of Legislators meeting on Monday night in White Plains. Parker said she plans to bring all her energy to address constituents’ concerns that unite the county, whether that is the tax burden or environmental issues.
In addition to Rye, Parker’s legislative district includes the Town of Mamaroneck, Rye Town and portions of New Rochelle and Harrison.
Sack and Parker served together on the Rye City Council for six years; each had two years left on their terms when they won their most recent elections.
On Wednesday night, the new City Council, which currently consists of five members including the mayor, appointed Richard Mecca, a Republican district leader, and Richard Slack, the husband of school board president Laura Slack, to fill out the seven-member roster.
The remaining holdover from the previous City Council is Republican Laura Brett, who served as master of ceremonies at the inauguration. Brett, who was elected in 2011, expressed her excitement the council has a new year and a fresh start ahead of them.
“Each council has its own opportunity because the public wants us to succeed,” she said; the challenge is maintaining the public’s confidence once they have that support.
After Sack’s three young daughters, Katie, Allie and Marybeth, led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Father Joseph Lim of Rye Resurrection Church gave the invocation, Sack, Parker and the three council members were sworn-in and each gave a brief speech.
In her remarks, Bucci, who was sworn in by Lane, said her objective in office will be to act as a “servant and not a ruler.”
McCartney, who was sworn in by Judge Richard Runes, took the platform with his wife Julia, sons Dan and Jack, and his three sisters, who flew in from Virginia for the occasion. McCartney said he ran because he wanted to make a difference and, after 14 years in Rye, has adopted the city as his own.
“I’m new to this. I’m going to do my very best,” McCartney, a Virginia transplant, said. “My wife grew up in Rye. It’s hard for a southerner to say sometimes, but I’m a New Yorker and I’m a Rye guy.”
McCartney said what makes Rye great is the willingness of people to do their part to chip in to serve on school PTAs, government committees and the city’s many commissions and boards.
“There are hundreds of spots for people to chip in, and if you can’t carve out that time, come to a City Council meeting. We can’t do our job very well unless we know how you feel about these very important issues,” McCartney said.
Killian, who has been on the council since 2012 after she was appointed to the seat and won a special election later that year to fill out the unexpired term of Republican Councilwoman Suzanna Keith, thanked her husband, Gary, and five children. She also praised Rye government.
“Rye is a terrific city. Our city government has faced much criticism, some of it deserved, but much of it not,” she said.
Killian, who was sworn-in by Rye Judge Joseph Latwin, said she has high hopes that the new council will take advantage of the fresh opportunity they have been given.