Mutter urges residents to take ‘authentic swing’ at betterment of town

Mutter urges residents to take ‘authentic swing’ at betterment of town

Mayor-elect Jeff Mutter repeats the oath of office as his wife Jennifer holds the Bible during his inauguration ceremony last Sunday at McCourt Middle School. The oath was administered by the Rev. Thomas Conboy, retired pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church, who administered the oath via Skype from Minnesota. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

CUMBERLAND – Jeff Mutter, at his mayoral inauguration on Sunday, said it will take a collective effort to address the challenges facing the town, but he’s confident in this community’s ability to come alongside him to make it happen.

At an event highlighting Mutter’s goals of including a greater diversity of voices in government and common goals for Cumberland residents, the new mayor emphasized the importance of each person taking their “authentic swing” in making the town everything it can be.

He spoke of one of his favorite movies, “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” a film he often shares snippets of with fellow friends and runners.

“We are all different, there are many conventional norms and all sorts of templates and plans designed to attain the best you … the best me … or the best us,” he said.

In the golf-themed movie, one character instructs another on how to stop hacking at the ball, telling him there’s only one shot that’s in perfect harmony with the field, “one shot that’s his ... his authentic shot. That shot is gonna choose him. There’s a perfect shot out there trying to find each and every one of us. All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way … and let it choose us.”

Inside each person is an “authentic swing. Something we were born with, that’s ours … and ours alone, something that can’t be taught to you or learned,” he said.

Mutter said the movie kept coming back to him for two reasons:

• The first, he said, “is to acknowledge I haven’t been very good at thanking all the people who shared their authentic swings with me and helped me develop the confidence to remember and be comfortable with mine.” He thanked outgoing Mayor Bill Murray for his assistance in the transition and his wife, Jenny Mutter, for supporting him in everything.

• “The second reason is a call to action. The energy and talent needed to solve issues and improve our town is in this room. It’s in our community,” he said. “Many of you have used your authentic swing to improve our town, and for that I thank you. We will need you again.”

There are many challenges ahead, from bridge closings to water infrastructure, road construction to budget deficits, said Mutter. There are also opportunities in the areas of school improvements, field space acquisitions and facility upgrades.

“When I spoke at one of Lieutenant Gov. (Dan) McKee’s mayoral inaugurations, in another context, I asked if we had it in us to compete. I am asking again,” he said. “Not a competition where a winner is crowned but a competition of ideas, ideas that will help us improve our town.”

Mutter said he believes everyone’s authentic swings contain some common components, including a spirit of fair play, an idealistic vision of the intentions of others, and a focus on accomplishing things that aren’t currently being accomplished.

“I believe the most effective way to root for Rhode Island as a whole and our town of Cumberland specifically is to re-acquaint ourselves with those common components,” he said, giving a nod to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s speech a week earlier asking people to root for their state.

Mutter said he he wants everyone to know that his mantra of “We Matter” wasn’t just a campaign slogan.

“I want you to know that without you, today doesn’t happen,” he said. “There will undoubtedly be challenges ahead. I ask you to join me in a competition of ideas to face these challenges and leave our town a little better than we found it.”

He concluded his speech with the trademark farewell he’s used so often at his Mutter Motors shop: “Be good.”

After Sunday’s speeches, residents were invited to come forward and fill in the blank on a wall stating “My wish for Cumberland is ...”

Sarah King, Mutter’s new administrative assistant, urged attendees to sign the banner, saying she thinks it’s important for people of all ages to have a voice in government. The Cumberland native spoke of walking into the Mutter for Mayor headquarters and realizing right away that her voice meant something with people who believed the same way she does. Mutter listened to every person in the room, and then responded with appropriate follow-up, she said. That ability to include everyone, young and old, has potential to have a great impact in the community.

“I knew this was the kind of future I wanted to be part of,” she said, adding that she’s “incredibly optimistic” about the future.

Turning to Mutter, King concluded, “This journey was never a sprint, it was always always a marathon, and I trust your stride.”

Master of Ceremonies Peter Langton, speaking to the inauguration crowd at McCourt Middle School, said everyone in the room shared a common purpose of making Cumberland a better place and building a sense of community.

Langton led the community engagement exercise, having four “groups” fill in cards about Cumberland. The four groups were community members, community group/nonprofit members, business owners and Cumberland students.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat, one of about 15 people to get up and speak, said Cumberland “is a place with great potential for business, education, history and recreation. It is a lifelong, lifetime community.”

The Rev. Thomas Conboy, retired pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church and past member of the Library Board of Trustees, administered the oath of office to Mutter via video feed from his home in Minnesota. The Rev. David Pierce, of Four Corners Community Chapel, gave the invocation and benediction. The CLEF Singers, under Director Janita Ducharme, performed the national anthem and “Winter Walk,” Camilla and Cordelia Howard led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Meghan Bonin performed “America the Beautiful.” The CHS Jazz Band, under Daniel Pedro, closed out the ceremony with “Hooked on a feeling,” “Take on me” and “Groove Bug.”

Also speaking Sunday were former Mayor McKee, Town Councilor Robert Shaw, and School Committee Chairman Paul DiModica.

Shaw said Cumberland has been on a path of improvement for some time, and he expects Mutter to keep it moving. The new mayor is always seeking facts and truth, he said, and all he wants is to get to work for Cumberland.

Mayor Jeff Mutter delivers his inaugural address at McCourt Middle School.
The CLEF Singers, under the direction of Janita Ducharme, perform the national anthem at the Inauguration ceremonies of Cumberland Mayor Jeff Mutter on Sunday.