ATTLEBORO - Mayor Kevin Dumas promised to push the city to new heights in the future during his seventh inaugural address on Tuesday, but he was also very cognizant of past efforts in announcing that the new Riverside Park, a key feature for downtown revitalization along the Ten Mile River, will be named for his predecessor, the late Judith Robbins.
"It will be known and dedicated as the Judith H. Robbins Riverfront Park," he said. "It's a fitting tribute to Judy."
Robbins was killed in an auto accident in August at the age of 78 on a day she had spend engaged in tasks for the city, work that she had done for more than 40 years.
Part of that work involved laying the plans for downtown revitalization during her six terms as mayor, and then teaming with Dumas as chairwoman of the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority to help bring it to fruition.
The two, who were political rivals in 2003, worked together for six years to save the once-troubled transit-oriented project, then move it ahead.
In the last few years, the massive project has produced a new bus terminal, an 80-unit, seven-story apartment building next to the commuter rail station and the start of a new connector road between Olive and Wall streets aimed at enhancing downtown traffic patterns, as well as opening up land for the park and residential and commercial development.
Dumas is the just the second mayor in the city's history to be elected for seven terms, behind only Cyril K. Brennan, who won eight terms in the 1950s and 1960s, and he pledged as he has in almost every inaugural speech not to settle for second best.
"The status quo is not sufficient in my eyes," he told a crowd that nearly filled Robert H. Bray Auditorium at the high school.
"As long as I am your mayor, I will work to make Attleboro the best city in the commonwealth."
Dumas laid out some of his aims for the next two years, which include planning for an outside-in rebuilding of the high school, the urban renewal of Union Street and the restoration or replacement of city water mains.
Also on the table will be an effort to "redefine the purpose and use" of Balfour Riverwalk, which Dumas hopes to remake along the lines of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston.
The entry to the park will be resituated on North Main Street and will contain an amphitheater and gardens.
"Like the Rose Kennedy Greenway, it will connect people with beauty and fun," Dumas said.
While those new projects are being planned, others now under construction will be pushed forward to completion, including Riverfront Drive, the Robbins Park and the new public works and water department facilities.
Smaller projects such as the repair of the Hoppin Hill Reservoir Dam, the Luther Pond Pumping Station, the restoration of the Oak Hill water tower and the completion of a new intersection at Tiffany Street and South Avenue will move ahead, he said.
The city's website will be revamped with a new notification system available to residents to keep them informed of special events or updates on weather or other problems.
In addition, he's hoping a second 80-unit apartment complex will break ground in the next two years.
The first, Renaissance Station 1, is on the north side of Wall Street; the second, Renaissance Station 2, would be on the south side of the street.
He noted accomplishments of the past two years, such as construction of a new animal shelter, renovation of Briggs Playground and acquisition of 83 acres of open space dedicated to passive recreation.
While spending on projects is great, Dumas said financial stability of the city is always his first priority, and will be maintained.
Towards that aim, he announced that the city's rainy day fund has reached $3.3 million - the highest level ever.
"Fiscal responsibility has always been and will continue to be at the core of my administration," he said.
The mayor said the city's progress is the work of many, including the city council, which has supported financing, city department heads, rank-and-file workers, from public works employees to the hundreds of teachers in city schools, as well as the city police and fire departments, which have won praise for problem-oriented policing and paramedic expertise.
"Your long hours, effort, skill and dedication do not go unnoticed by me," he said, addressing city employees and officials.
He described the city as a special place imbued with a special spirit, "Blue Pride."
"Civic pride and love of this community will guide us over the next two years," he said. "We're not done, yet, folks."