Big job ahead for new council

Published 4:54 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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Monday morning saw the dawn of the first business day of a new year and therefore the induction of a new City Council.

Returning to their seats are Councilmen Roger Fawcett and Lue Ward. Returning to the City Council, albeit in the mayor’s seat rather than the Chuckatuck Borough chair he has filled for the last 10 years, is Mike Duman. Newly elected is longtime Suffolk businessman and philanthropist LeOtis Williams. And soon to be joining the City Council is a resident from the Chuckatuck Borough, yet to be named, who will fill the remainder of Duman’s term.

The result is a City Council that only truly has two new people but still looks a lot different.

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This council has a number of issues before it. It faces the continuing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could result in a difficult budget season. It also has a city administration where almost half of top administrators and department heads are currently in their roles on an interim or acting basis, and we hope it’s a top priority for the council that these positions be filled on a permanent basis expeditiously.

Perhaps most dauntingly, in a nation that increasingly sees virtually all topics in shades of red or blue and separates itself into factions with an us-versus-them mentality, Suffolk has not been immune. Perhaps one of the biggest and most daunting tasks this council has before it is to unite and run this city independently, asking itself at all times not what will please conservatives or liberals or Democrats or Republicans or this faction or that faction but rather what will be the best for the city and its 90,000-some residents, its business community, its schools, its nonprofits, its tourists and passers-through, and its future.

To unite does not mean that all eight members of council must agree on everything at all times. To run the city independently does not mean the council should not consider larger issues going on in our state, nation and world and what changes may need to happen in Suffolk. But we do hope to see a local government run locally and not steered exclusively by this chaotic world in which we live.