NORTH ADAMS -- Five new city council members are set to be sworn in to their first terms on New Year's Day, in addition to four incumbents who won re-election this November.
The 11 a.m. swearing-in at City Hall on Wednesday will include the election of the city council president and vice president.
Kate Merrigan, Wayne Wilkinson, Benjamin Lamb, Joshua Moran, and Eric Buddington will serve their first terms, while Lisa Blackmer, Nancy Bullet, Jennifer Breen, and Keith Bona all won reelection in November.
Each city councilor serves a two-year term. This year, nearly half of the elected councilors we not incumbents, possibly bringing a different dynamic to the nine-member city council. Council President Michael Bloom did not seek re-election this year, while long-term former Mayor and current Councilor John Barrett III also opted out.
Newcomer Kate Merrigan, who was the top overall vote-getter, said she's been spending the holidays studying in anticipation of her first term.
"I'm very much in homework mode," Merrigan said.
In the short-term, Merrigan is aiming to just learn her new role at City Hall before tackling the long-term goals she set during her election campaign.
"My responsibility is to learn the nuances of the position," she said. "[I'll] focus first on learning the role ... there's a lot to municipal government."
Merrigan, who gained recognition in North Adams in her role as UNITY Program Coordinator for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, said she'll be eager to learn the position but won't hesitate to make her opinion known.
"I'm not going to hold back just because I'm worried about looking foolish," Merrigan said.
As she settles in, Merrigan said she hopes to make city government more accessible.
Between social media, the city website, and newspapers, Merrigan said "everything's really fragmented, so I want to do what I can ... to help get information out."
One clear goal Merrigan said she has set is to make the city more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians.
Ultimately, she's willing to listen to any ideas.
"I want to be the liaison with residents at large," she said. "I want to talk with whoever would like to sit down and talk."
Long-time Councilor Keith Bona, now the senior-most member of the council, also expects change this year at city hall.
"It's going to be sort of a different atmosphere," Bona said.
Bona said Council Vice President Lisa Blackmer could get the nod for Council President, who he said has earned the opportunity.
Bona said the council's job "isn't the sexiest," and that much of the city's progress "doesn't fall within the responsibility of the council." He noted that under the city's charter, it uses a strong-mayor weak-council system.
But, he added, the council will have to continue to find ways to provide services with limited resources.
"Our biggest challenge is, and it has been for almost a decade, how to deal with the budget," Bona said. "We basically have to keep working with less and less and give everyone the resources they're used to."
Included in the ceremony will be the swearing in of North Adams School Committee and Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District members.
The new council's first meeting is Jan. 14.
To reach Adam Shanks, email email@example.com.