2024 Inaugural Address
2024 Inaugural Address by The Honorable Mayor Greg Verga
Thank you Lieutenant Governor Driscoll for your kind words and for always supporting the hard work of cities like ours. Members of the School Committee and City Council, family, honored guests and fellow Gloucester residents … Happy New Year! Thank you, one and all, for taking the time to be here on this first day of 2024. Thanks also to those joining us from home as well as to our master of ceremonies, Jack Clarke, the GHS JROTC, Paul Lawson, Alessandro Schoc, Rabbi Lewis, John Ronan and Father Jim, who will be offering our benediction. And please help me show our appreciation for the musical stylings of Corey Wrinn, Alexandra Grace & Josh Cominelli—thank you!
About 14 hours ago, Gloucester began its 401st year as a City. This day, this gathering, this office that I hold is about one thing and one thing only: The People of Gloucester. Where we’ve been. Where we are. And where we are going.
Believe it or not, all this got me thinking about 19th century English biologist Charles Darwin, the father of the science behind evolution. While most of the evolutionary biology and species adaptation that Darwin discovered takes place over millions of years, some occurs in just a few decades. Some in a few days. Obviously, Gloucester’s own evolution began long, long before 1623 and as such we must recognize that we’re assembled here on the traditional and ancestral homeland of the Pawtucket people and the other Native and Indigenous nations that have inhabited this territory for more than 10,000 years.
In our own handful of centuries, the ability of Gloucester’s people to adapt, improvise and overcome is a proud and profound story of evolution. We are a very different place than we were 400 years ago.
My Grampa Vincenzo and Pa Verga saw plenty of that change in the early 20th century, both ashore and while sailing or steaming to Stellwagen or Georges. My parents watched Gloucester evolve for another nine decades. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My kids have seen it. My grandchildren will soon become cognizant of it too.
As we know, evolution involves change. More importantly, it means change only to the extent necessary to thrive. In the world Darwin discovered, it’s a natural process. For us, evolution is the driving force behind progress, community vitality and our citizens’ well-being. And we the people control it. We engineer it. We are the ones who benefit, and we are the ones who stand to lose if we don’t have the vision to evolve.
The People of Gloucester’s continual adaptation and our willingness to lean in to favorable variations has served us well. May - that legacy - be our roadmap for our next 400 years.
Gloucester is already a different place than it was even two years ago.
We’ve spearheaded transformative advancements that continue in our parks and open spaces, in our schools, along our streets and sidewalks and in the extent of our carbon footprint. You’ve seen ongoing improvements to our beach traffic mitigation, our courthouse and police station, our Affordable Housing Trust along with many other volunteer boards, and right across the street you can see the evolution of our library as we transform it into a 21st century learning environment that has the space and technology-resources to allow for self-directed learning, exploration and community engagement.
We’ve welcomed new businesses, widened our tourism base and we are designing a comprehensive wayfinding system for navigating the City. Our new Harbor Plan is awaiting final state approval and will allow us to make important changes to our waterfront, resulting in economic development opportunities both on and offshore.
But rather than reciting all the good works, innovations, improvements, remedies, revisions and renewals that occurred during my first term—you heard plenty of that during the most recent campaign—let me focus on a more symbolic marker of our ongoing evolution. A modest, new arrival in our community that epitomizes how the People of Gloucester create change and improve our community.
A half-mile from where you sit, you’ll find beautiful bronze planters at the four corners of the base of the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial on Stacy Boulevard. Sculpted by renowned Essex-based artist Chris Williams. They are styled in the shape of rope baskets brimming with the bounty of the sea, and were installed just three weeks ago.
This project was spearheaded by the City’s not-for-profit Generous Gardeners. They created a landscape plan for Stacy Boulevard and as a legacy gift to Gloucester’s 400+ anniversary commemoration, commissioned these wonderful planters.
This effort—from concept to planning to execution—was wholly led by the people. Caring citizens leveraging their representative government to improve their lives, help this City evolve and remind us that while fishing may be different, Gloucester will always boast a working waterfront.
My wish today is to deliver a clear message: City Hall is open for business—the business of the People of Gloucester. We’ve created new avenues for citizen participation in and influence on their local government.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the new Gloucester Comprehensive Plan, a 10-year vision and blueprint of our City’s future. This plan will be the foundational policy document for our City, guiding local decisions about future growth, preservation and—here’s that word again—evolution.
We’re currently in Phase II of building this plan, which is the citizen-input stage. My Community Development Team has been working across the City to solicit input, carry out fact-finding and gather points of view. This will continue through May. If you haven’t found a way to offer your own vision and aspirations, I urge you—I implore you—to do so in the coming weeks and months.
The good news is, there are many ways to participate in this process. Subscribe to our mailing list. Take our community survey. Submit ideas using our Crowdmap. Host a meeting-in-a-box, which lets you join together with friends, colleagues and neighbors to discuss, and submit your ideas for Gloucester’s future.
We have those kits available here today; please take one on your way out and make your voices heard. For the best information about how to get involved, just visit the city’s website.
A major goal of my first term was broader and more consistent public participation in the governance of Gloucester. That’s why we invested in technology improvements in City Hall and the Rose Baker Senior Center and I’m proud to announce that over the next several weeks, meetings of City boards, committees and commissions will be hybrid, interactive and recorded. That means you can attend in-person or online and participate in either format.
I should also mention that reappointments and nominations to fill vacancies on these volunteer boards and commissions are ongoing. If you want to be more directly involved in a particular area of citizen oversight, just reach out to my office.
I would like to take this opportunity to express this City’s gratitude to the volunteers who populate these boards and commissions and the many, many others who donate their time across our community. You are performing vital civic functions, and without your selfless commitment to Gloucester, this City simply doesn’t run.
So what can you, the People of Gloucester, expect from City Hall in the next two years? A government that you control, that you engineer and that you can leverage as an instrument of good.
You will continue to see improvements to our infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks and the underground utilities we often take for granted. You will benefit from an increasingly diversified economy, based on respectful use of our unique resources. You can look forward to substantial updates and expansions to Gloucester’s active and passive open spaces, including Green Street Park and the former East Gloucester School site. It’s also my personal goal to implement one of the recommendations of the Open Space plan and rebuild a Parks Division.
Every day, we’re learning and implementing new ways that people can communicate with and participate in government. I want to amplify the People’s voice, raise the level of public discourse and put important issues that matter to Gloucester front and center.
Gloucester hasn’t prospered for 400 years by running away from a challenge, ducking responsibilities or taking the easy way out. What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s politically expedient often isn’t right. Under my leadership as Mayor, our focus has been and will always be getting long term wins for the City.
I want everything that Gloucester has to offer to be here and to be attainable for our kids and their kids. I want us to keep thriving and evolving, while staying true to ourselves as the nation’s oldest fishing port and as people who want what’s best for the best place on earth.
As I’ve said countless times since taking office, decisions in City Hall have a real impact on real people living real lives in Gloucester. That decision-making should be, can be and must be driven by the People of Gloucester.
Thank you and, once again, Happy New Year.
"The Coming Centennial"
As part of the 2024 Inaugural Ceremonies, John Ronan, Past Poet Laureate, read an original poem titled, "The Coming Centennial".