A new year in municipal government began in Springfield, Massachusetts today with an historic ceremony at city hall. The new city council and the new city council president are both “ firsts” for Springfield
The city council sworn in Monday morning is the first in Springfield’s history where a majority of the councilors are black or Hispanic—a makeup that mirrors the city’s population which is 61 percent non-white. The new president of the city council Mike Fenton turned 27 yesterday and is the youngest council president in the city’s history.
" Our chamber is more diverse than ever and we are stronger than ever."
Fenton, who was elected unanimously by his colleagues to serve as president, noted that the 13 councilors are diverse not only in age and ethnicity, but also in backgrounds, levels of education and employment.
" What unites us is that we are here because we love this city and believe in a better tomorrow."
In his inaugural speech as council president, Fenton delivered a brief history of Springfield city government and noted the change- over from an all at-large council to include ward representatives for the first time on the ballot in 2009. He said that change resulted in his election to the council four years ago and to the historic election two months ago that produced a council where seven of the 13 members are non-white.
Fenton said he looked forward to what he called “an exciting year of making history,” and said it is shaping up to be a busy year of legislating with a focus on public safety, economic development and transportation.
The council swearing- in and Fenton’s election as president took place in front of a standing-room only audience in the council chambers that included family members of the councilors, city department heads, and community leaders.
" I think everybody is very optimistic and there was definitely a sense of positive energy," said Fenton.
Fenton also said he would create two new ad hoc committees. One will look for ways to attract young professionals to live in Springfield. The other will explore new sources of revenue for the city.
Two new members of the city council took their oaths of office. Orlando Ramos said it was a special day because his 9 –year- old daughter was in the audience.
" I am very excited for my volunteers, friends and family who worked hard to get me elected and for them to be here to share this with me is very special."
Justin Hurst was sworn in to his first term on the council.
" The voters wanted a change in the city . They wanted people on the council who would really make a difference and that is what you have here today."
Hurst said he looks forward to continuing a family tradition of public service. His mother served on the Springfield School Committee and his wife is the current school committee vice-chairperson.