Mayor pledges two more years of working hard for Milford

Mayor Ben Blake committed himself to another two years of working hard for the city during his inauguration Wednesday night.

The mayor also vowed to see the city schools revert back to “neighborhood schools,” a move that some city parents have been pushing for.

The inauguration ceremony took place at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium at the Parsons Complex. The event included concert and fife and drum music and powerful vocal performances, in addition to the customary swearing-in of city officials.

Blake, a Democrat taking his second term as mayor, said he was “humbled” by the oath and the confidence residents have put in him.

“I commit myself to earn that trust every day,” Blake said.

Noting some historical national challenges over the centuries, Blake pointed out that the country continued to persevere and move forward, eventually landing on the moon, inventing the Bic lighter, then Facebook and Twitter.

In the same way, the city is moving on from recent attacks by Mother Nature, specifically Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

“We emerged stronger, more resilient,” he said.

He ticked off a list of accomplishments over the past two years, including expanding senior tax relief, saving money on electricity and debt service interest, passing two “lean budgets” and streamlining city operations.

“While I’m proud of these accomplishments, I’m not satisfied,” Blake said. “I’m restless.”

He said there needs to be substantial changes to Milford’s schools, including returning the elementary schools to a K-5 configuration. The elementary schools were set up to house kindergarten through fifth grade classes until about four years ago, when changing demographics and financial concerns led administrators to change to a K-2, 3-5 configuration.

Since then, parents have complained that the set-up makes it hard for them, especially if they work and have to meet several different bus stops for children in different schools. Others have said the arrangement minimizes parental involved in their neighborhood schools.

Tracy Casey, sworn in Wednesday for another term on the Board of Education, said there is a long-range planning committee looking at a number of school issues, and returning to the K-5 model is one of them. She said the committee is expected to release a report in March, though Blake said he is trying to push them to finalize the report in December.

City Clerk Linda Stock, Republican, took her third oath Wednesday, promising to “continue to give the citizens of Milford 100%.”

The oaths and speeches were accompanied by the Milford Concert Band, performing several tunes; several fife and drum corps, including the Milford Volunteer Ancient Fire and Drum Corps, and songs by the Foran and Law select vocal ensembles.

Vicki Battle, accompanied by local music teacher Bob Nunno on the keyboard, belted out a powerful National Anthem, and later Shower the People with backup from the West Shore Middle School Select Choir.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Rich Smith congratulated the winners in this year’s election, and the people who didn’t win. He named them all, including mayoral challenger Peter Spalthoff, incumbent alderman Paula Smith and city clerk challenger Charles Montalbano.

“Some of these folks served and were not reelected, but congratulations to these folks and their families,” Smith said. “Without each of them, this process wouldn’t work.

“It takes courage to stand, and they have stood.”