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Newport Commission Retakes Office with Cautious Optimism

The Newport city commission that was sworn in on Monday night for its next two-year term looks identical to the one that served the previous two years.

Unlike its River City neighbors of Covington, Ludlow, Bellevue, and Dayton, all of which saw major shake-ups in the make-up of their governments in last November's election, Newport voters returned all four incumbent city commissioners.

Mayor Jerry Peluso was not on the ballot as he is in the middle of his third four-year term.

After Campbell County Circuit Court Judge Dan Zalla administered the oath of office, accompanied by the usual laughter that is so frequently present during Kentucky's archaic mandate that elected officials swear to have never fought or aided in a duel, the returned commissioners thanked the voters and looked cautiously and optimistically to the future.

"As your commissioner-elect, I remain committed to moving our Newport forward by honoring our shared history and all that makes our city special," said Thomas Guidugli, who has served since 2011. "I look forward to being part of a very strong team that has been a compelling for in this city."

"Newport has been a major part of my life, a major part of my family's life," said Frank Peluso, who has served since 2007 and is a cousin of the mayor. Both Guidugli and Frank Peluso are sons of former Newport mayors. "Look around, look at each other," Peluso instructed the packed crowd at the city building on Monday night. "This is what makes Newport great. When something is needed, the people are there. We're here for you, but more importantly, you're always there for us."

Commissioner Ken Rechtin was sworn in for his second term after first serving in the role from 1992 to 2002 before becoming a Campbell County commissioner from 2003 to 2014.

"I truly love this job and I love doing it on behalf of the citizens of Newport," Rechtin said. "It is said about the election process that it is an individual sport, the election is individual. But once you are elected, it completely changes. It is a team sport suddenly. Over the past two years, I have never worked with a better team. The city commission, the mayor, our wonderful team members, we really work in the spirit of a team."

Commissioner Beth Fennell, first elected in 1992, was absent from Monday's meeting.

The past two years positioned Newport for serious growth with major developments in progress or on the horizon, including riverfront apartments, more apartments in the downtown center, and a $100 million purchase of Newport on the Levee that is expected to be followed by $100 million worth of investment in improvements there.
 
Unlike some of its surrounding communities, Newport's city government has been without the frequent unpleasant discord that pits elected officials against one another, and instead of voted together on nearly every piece of legislation that has come before it.
 
However, with Kentucky's pension woes and other costs for local government increasing, Newport leaders also expect challenges ahead.
 
"2018 was a very successful year, but we still have a lot of challenges moving forward," said longtime city manager Tom Fromme. "We feel that that the board (of commissioners) has exhibited superior leadership over the past several years and we look forward to beginning a new term in '19."
 
"I think we can all agree that 2017 and 18 were pretty good years for the city," Mayor Jerry Peluso said. "2019-20, they're going to be challenging years, but I think the best is yet to come."
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher