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Gavel Passed in Newport: New Mayor, Commission Sworn In

The ceremonial passing of the gavel took place in Newport on Monday night as Thomas Guidugli, Jr. was sworn in as mayor.

Because the meeting was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, outgoing Mayor Jerry Peluso held up a wooden gavel gifted to him by city staff and "passed" it to Guidugli who brandished a transparent gavel.

"This gavel has significance," said Guidugli, a longtime city commissioner and son of former mayor Tom Guidugli. "It's transparent, and this is the type of government we have been intentional in in Newport, and I look forward to serving with all of you and to use this gavel."

Guidugli said that he was "honored yet humble" to be elected mayor last November, a race in which he was unopposed.

"I stand on the shoulders of those before me, including you, mayor," Guidugli said with a nod to Jerry Peluso. "While I am excited about the progress, I am fully aware that many challenges lay ahead."

Newport is poised for further development growth with a repurposed Newport on the Levee coming online and the Ovation entertainment and mixed-use site finally sprouting from the ground, first with a parking garage and music venue that is set to open this year.

"Creating a Newport that works for everyone is important to me," Guidugli said. "I was born in Newport, Heather and I are raising (children) in Newport. This is home, always has been, always will be."

Jerry Peluso, who served as mayor for twelve years and was term-limited out, successfully sought a seat on the city commission last November and will now serve in that role. He called his time as mayor "an honor and privilege."

"We have experienced a tremendous amount of change and development in this period and I am very proud to have been part of this success," Peluso said. The gifted gavel was made of cherry wood, he said, and engraved with the words Mayor 2009 - 2020.

"It is my last duty as mayor to pass the gavel to our next mayor," he said.

Though Peluso is stepping away from the center seat at City Hall, his move to the commission keeps the same five people in elected office for another two years at least. Incumbent commissioners Frank Peluso (Jerry Peluso's cousin), Beth Fennell, and Ken Rechtin were all reelected and sworn in on Monday.

Frank Peluso, also the son of a former mayor, Johnny Peluso, was designated vice mayor.

"This is not a privilege I take lightly and I will continue to do my very best to live up to the trust you have installed in me and to live up to the commitment of everyone who calls Newport home," Frank Peluso said.

Fennell also thanked residents "for faith in me." 

"All credit goes to the residents, city staff, and the businesses, large and small, and the neighborhood groups," she said. "There is still much work to do and we are up to the task. Mayor Guidugli, I look forward to scaling new heights with you."

Rechtin tapped into recent sports headlines, referring to the campaign as an individual sport but governing as a team sport.

He described Guidugli as Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, and a relative newcomer to professional football drafted in 2017. Rechtin referred to Jerry Peluso as Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and who, at age 43, has been a star and Super Bowl champion six times. Rechtin noted the oft-used "GOAT" reference, an acronym for "greatest of all time."

Mahomes and Brady will face off in the upcoming Super Bowl.

"Every team needs a quarterback. I congratulate and say thanks to Jerry Peluso for being the GOAT for the past twelve years," Rechtin said.

City Manager Tom Fromme credited Newport's recent successes with the continuity of its government.

"2020 has been a challenging year. We all look forward to entering 2021 with light at the end of the tunnel and I am pleased with the stability of leadership that we have had in this city, which has greatly helped all efforts that we have had over this last twelve years," Fromme said.

"No one does anything alone," Mayor Guidugli said. "We all need people to connect with, to do things, whether in our community, our businesses, and I ask all of our citizens, our businesses, our workers in our city to all be a part of our success because without all of you, it doesn't happen."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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