At her inauguration before a crowd of 500, new Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu promised her administration will work to reduce partisan rancor and divisiveness in the city.
“Everyone who has the best interest of Bristol is welcome at the table,” she said. “I believe diversity in background and in opinion can be our greatest strength.”
Zoppo-Sassu took charge of the city in a ceremony that packed Bristol Eastern High School’s auditorium. The crowd roared when Dean Kilbourne introduced her as the city’s first female mayor, and applauded when she named council member Mary Fortier acting mayor, essentially her emergency backup.
“So if that CTfastrak bus we see going by city hall takes me out, we still have a woman in charge,” Zoppo-Sassu, drawing laughter from the audience.
Zoppo-Sassu, a Democrat, won a crushing victory on Election Day over Republican incumbent Ken Cockayne. Democrats also took five of the six city council seats.
Zoppo-Sassu said she hopes to be just the first of many female mayors, but emphasized that a bigger shift in government is at stake.
“More important than the changing of the guard is changing the tone of civil discourse,” she said. “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”
This year’s mayoral campaign was marked by an uncommonly nasty social media battle between Cockayne’s supporters and Zoppo-Sassu’s camp. The Republican ticket was split by an ugly feud between Cockayne and his cousin, council member Jodi Zils-Gagne.
Three former mayors — Gerard Couture, Frank Nicastro and John Leone — joined Zoppo-Sassu on stage, and Bill Stortz and Michael Werner sent greetings. But Cockayne and former Mayor Art Ward, Zoppo-Sassu’s political adversaries, didn’t attend.
Zoppo-Sassu promised she’ll address homelessness and the opioid crisis in Bristol, and will work to retain local businesses and to resurrect the former Memorial Boulevard School as a theater.
“How we govern, and what we prioritize, should reflect our core values as a community,” she said.