AGAWAM — At the inaugural ceremony Jan. 2 at the Agawam Senior Center, Mayor Christopher Johnson harkened back to campaign trail promises, saying he hoped town officials could work together during his administration, like they did with former Mayor William Sapelli.

“I want to work with each and every one of you, moving Agawam forward,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. I hope that we don’t let any petty squabbles or disputes get in the way of that.”

Johnson, who had previously been mayor with five two-year terms in the 1990s, won back the office in the November 2023 general election. He received 53% of the vote. During his campaign, he promised to continue the “spirit of cooperation” between Agawam town officials. He also said he wanted to make Agawam the best place in the Pioneer Valley to live, work, and raise a family, a phrase he repeated in his inaugural speech.

In his speech, Johnson said he had “big shoes to fill,” regarding the former mayor. He also said he wants to work with other elected officials on a new high school. Johnson also congratulated the City Council and School Committee winners, as well as thanking his children, Christopher and Emily, and his wife.

“Without her, I’m not here,” he said, sounding on the verge of tears.

Johnson had previously been sworn in at 8:30 a.m. so he could perform mayoral duties during the day. At the ceremony, he was sworn in a second time. Town Clerk Vincent Gioscia officiated the ceremony.

The swearings-in were preceded by the Agawam Veterans Council posting the colors, and members of the high school band playing the national anthem. Bethany Assembly of God Pastor Stephen Thee offered prayers at the beginning and end of the ceremony.

Following the mayor, the School Committee was sworn in, including newcomer Catherine McDougal. McDougal won 2,716 votes in the general election, replacing Kerri O’Connor, who did not run in 2023. The full board now consists of her, A.J. Christopher, Dawn DeMatteo, Michael Perry, Shelley Borgatti-Reed and Wendy Rua, with the mayor serving ex officio as chair.

After the School Committee, Gioscia swore in the City Council. Three newcomers — Edward Borgatti, Maria Valego, and Peter Smus — took the seats of Johnson, former council Vice President Cecilia Calabrese, and Paul Cavallo. The council also consists of incumbents Anthony Russo, Anthony Suffriti, Dino Mercadante, George Bitzas, Gerald Smith, Roberto Rossi, Thomas Hendrickson and Rosmary Sandlin.

Following the ceremony, the City Council elected its president and vice president. For president, Smus nominated Sandlin and Suffriti nominated Mercadante.

Sandlin won the vote 6-5. Bitzas, Mercadante, Rossi, Smith and Suffriti voted for Mercadante; Borgatti, Hendrickson, Russo, Sandlin, Smus and Valego voted for Sandlin. The council then took a second, unanimous vote to register a consensus of support for Sandlin.

After the meeting, Sandlin said she was honored to be elected president. She hopes to work with Johnson as well as she did with Sapelli.

“I hope to have a peaceful transition and that we all work together like we did in the past,” she said.

For vice president, Suffriti managed to nominate Russo before Bitzas moved to close nominations. The council approved Bitzas’ motion unanimously. Russo was chosen as vice president in an 11-0 vote.

“I’m very honored and humbled that my colleagues would have the faith to unanimously vote for me without opposition,” he said later.

Russo said he wanted the position so he could work harder for the town and its residents. He looks forward to the new council and working with its new members. He hopes councilors continue to work well with each other, as he said they’ve done in the past.

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