Photo By PAULA MULLER
From left, School Committee members-elect Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson; and City Councilors-elect Jay Walsh and Brian LaPierre meet at Old Tyme Italian Cuisine in Lynn.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
LYNN — Four newly-elected officials, two School Committee members and two City Councilors, will be sworn in tonight, with each looking forward to the challenges their new positions will bring.
Brian LaPierre will take the oath of office as a Councilor-at-Large, while John “Jay” Walsh Jr. will be sworn in as Ward 7 Councilor.
Jared Nicholson and Lorraine Gately will be sworn in as new School Committee members.
The ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. in Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.
“I’m excited to be a part of it,” Walsh said. “I’m looking forward to the future.”
LaPierre said it is an important time to be an elected official. He said people are excited for change and want to see the city change faster. He said there’s a lot of pride in the city.
Nicholson and Gately agreed. Gately said she believes “Lynn is going to be the best place in the state.”
“The citizens of Lynn believe this is Lynn’s time,” Nicholson said.
After officially taking office, the four plan on getting started with issues they see facing the school system and city as a whole.
Nicholson said one of the biggest issues is the opioids crisis. He said the rise in the use of opioids is a pressing health issue and there needs to be collaboration to work towards lessening the problem. He also said that addiction needs to be brought into the conversation. Gately, LaPierre and Walsh all agreed.
“That’s on everyone’s mind,” LaPierre said.
Walsh said a friend of his recently lost a son to opioid addiction. He said Lynn Economic Opportunity (LEO) has some programs to combat opioids and addiction, but a lot of times people aren’t even being seen by available programs until they hit bottom.
LaPierre said when he was campaigning and “going door to door,” he met a struggling addict.
“He said, ‘I’m not a bad person trying to become good,’” LaPierre said. “(he said) ‘I’m a sick person trying to become well.’”
Collaboration on addressing the issue is a strategy, with the four suggesting working with police, state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office, among others.
Gately said resource officers already do a good job of keeping opioid problems out of the schools, but the issue is when those students graduate and no longer have that support.
The four agreed the city is going in the right direction, but want to see movement on several other issues.
Nicholson said he saw a void at Thurgood Marshall Middle School that needed to be filled and decided to start a wrestling team there. He said that program is starting this week and the cost for it is going to be low because the mats were donated.
“It’s going to be a great fit for the city,” Nicholson said.
Walsh is focused on improving infrastructure. He said he took a drive and put together a list of potholes that need to be filled.
“I want to see the rail trail completed, if possible,” Walsh said, adding, “A lot of the other cities and towns have done it.”
LaPierre discussed the importance of a new Marshall Middle School, which is set for a spring opening. He said his focus will now be directed towards getting a new Pickering Middle School. The Pickering project is currently in its feasibility stage and goes to Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) this month.
“I would love to have a shovel in the ground for a new Pickering,” LaPierre said.
The politicians also discussed rising student enrollment, highlighting the importance of new schools. Walsh said a balance also needs to be found with new development and how many more students are coming into the school system. He said that might be addressed with building more one and two bedroom residences.
Also discussed were after-school programs. Gately said she would like to see such programs added, with a kindergarten to eighth-grade component that would teach students how to study. She said it will better prepare them for high school and college, when that skill becomes necessary.