This past week, I presided over my last City Council Meeting as Council President, wrapping up what has been a “wild ride” in local politics over the last 6 years. I would have prepared a statement at the last meeting, but my amazing colleagues and friends honestly brought me to tears from their kind words.
When I first ran for City Council, I was in my mid-twenties and it was always something that I wanted to do. What I expected it would be was filing resolutions and helping residents with potholes.
Never in a million years would I have ever imagined I would file motions to cut budget line items, serve in my first term as the Chair of the Ordinance Committee, and stay at City Council meetings until 1 a.m., but I enjoyed every minute of it. I had fun, I was meeting new people, and I was sitting in seat 8—the very seat where my grandmother took a photo of me at ten years old and I said, “I’m going to sit here one day.”
In my second term, never did I ever imagine succeeding one of my best and loyal friends, Shawn Cadime, as City Council President. I remember vividly as a Freshman Councilor thinking that I had all the answers and that I was going to make a world of change—alone. Every elected official thinks that as a new City Councilor, but not all Freshman City Councilors had a City Council President like Shawn Cadime. His words to me on day one—typical Shawn Cadime—were direct, honest, and to the point. “You can’t do it alone. You need to be able to count to 5.” And, “You need to stop worrying about being the most ‘liked’ guy in the room.” I never forgot those conversations, and they were the most impactful in my tenure on the City Council.
The second term turned out to be one of the most turbulent times in the history of City politics.
WHAT A TERM IT WAS. Our former Mayor randomly showed-up to City Council Meetings and we had a political stand-off, he was arrested—not once, but twice—and I got call one morning from Judge Macy: “Cliff, clear your schedule and come to my office at 11 a.m.” I was the Acting Mayor. I put my entire personal life on hold and was at City Hall every day morning until night. The day Judge Macy called me and told me Jasiel Correia was stepping down, I felt the pressure of the entire City on my shoulders. I had to bring back stability to a city, and all eyes were on me. I assumed that duty without pay. The money wasn’t important to me. Putting this City back on track was my top priority. I got a little taste of being Mayor of the City and enjoyed paving the way for our community to enter in a phase of normalcy.
My third term, I was elected again as City Council President with my friend Pam Laliberte as Vice President. She made the job as City Council President much easier for me. Going into my third term, we had a new Mayor and everyone was feeling “good” about the future. We elected a few new City Councilors who I am proud to call friends, and I was able to give back some perspective, knowledge, and wisdom that I have learned over the years. Councilor Dionne said this past week that she was happy to be able to call me during her first year on the City Council, and I was able to give a perspective to her—even if we disagreed. That is something I learned from living in the moment: the kind of stuff, people don’t see but that makes a profound difference.
Then I decided to run for Mayor. Doing so, I was fully aware of what I was going up against, and I have zero regrets. The campaign was not personal—it was about the issues, and I believe we as a City have some serious issues. Over the next two years residents of this City will see the issues play out. I’m hopeful that one day Mayor Coogan and I will be able to have a coffee and put differences aside for the betterment of the City.
For now, I’m going to be on the sidelines when it comes to politics. However, I will continue to give back to my community and City, just in a slightly different way. This is certainly not goodbye—this is just “so long for now” from being an elected official.
This past week, I had every expectation that I would tear up and be emotional at our last meeting, not because I lost the election for Mayor, but because I am going to miss working with my friends and holding people accountable for the betterment of our city.
As I step aside for now, I must thank the people of Fall River for giving me the honor to serve the city for the past 6 years. It has been a remarkable journey that I wouldn’t change for the world.
I especially pay tribute to my colleagues on the city council, mentors, allies, and rivals, who have served with principle and vigilance through challenging years. I have grown to respect all those who serve us with integrity and hard work throughout city government. Though I have had a setback in my political ambitions, my admiration for the virtue of public service remains unwavering. My motto continues to be, “Give back to the community that gave you so much.” I wish the incoming city council and the administration the best in the next 24 months as great challenges await our city government and officials. As John Kennedy once stated, “Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” I wish all elected officials the very best over the next two years. It’s not going to be “easy”; difficult things aren’t easy, but they are worth it.
See you soon,