Garcia cites Holyoke’s resiliency, cooperative spirit in inaugural address

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  • Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia, at podium, delivers his inauguration address to about 100 people attending a swearing-in ceremony for officials including school committee members and the 13 city councilors, seated on stage, at City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia delivers his inaugural address at a swearing-in ceremony for officials at City Hall on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Elected Holyoke officials are led into City Hall by the Caledonian Pipe Band for their swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee, second from right, administers the oath of office to the 13 city councilors during a ceremony Monday at Holyoke City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia acknowledges applause after being sworn in during a ceremony at City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia, center, shakes hands with well-wishers after he and the City Council were sworn in by City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee, left, at a ceremony in City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia, center, greets Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley on his way to the council chambers following a swearing in of elected officials at City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke At-large City Councilor Israel Rivera attends the council reorganization meeting following the swearing in of elected officials at Holyoke City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Ward 2 City Councilor Will Puello. Photographed at a swearing-in ceremony for officials at Holyoke City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Ward 4 City Councilor Kocayne Givner attends a council reorganization meeting following the swearing in of elected officials at Holyoke City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Ward 4 City Councilor Jose Maldonado Velez. Photographed at the swearing-in ceremony for officials at City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke At-large City Councilor Kevin Jourdain attends the council reorganization meeting following the swearing in of elected officials at Holyoke City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke At-large City Councilor Tessa Murphy-Romboletti attends the council reorganization meeting following the swearing in of elected officials at Holyoke City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke At-large City Councilor Tessa Murphy-Romboletti attends the council reorganization meeting following the swearing in of elected officials at Holyoke City Hall on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2022 10:27:53 PM

HOLYOKE — When Holyoke’s newly elected officials took their oath of office Monday, the group on stage at City Hall represented the full diversity of the city’s 38,000 residents.

The 13-member City Council is now home to six councilors of color — the most diverse it has ever been. That includes two Latino at-large councilors, Israel Rivera and Jose Luis Maldonado Velez, when previously only two Latinos had ever served as at-large members. The city, where more than half of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, also elected the first Latina to ever serve in an at-large seat on the School Committee, Mildred Lefebvre.

Holyoke also elected its first-ever Hispanic mayor, Joshua Garcia, who was sworn in on Nov. 15 to complete former mayor Alex Morse’s tenure before his official swearing in on Monday morning.

Speaking to the crowd gathered Monday, Garcia said that the “harsh truth” is that our society is one where people like him are not set up to succeed, let alone become mayor of their hometown.

“And I have to believe that this feeling weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of many here today,” Garcia said. “I know it does because, if it didn’t, we would not have the diverse representation we see on this stage.”

The event was a bit more muted than the energetic, crowded swearing in Garcia had on Nov. 15. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the region, the crowd was thinner, more spaced out and all wearing masks.

Standing beneath the city’s crest and its slogan — “industria et copia,” Latin for “industry and abundance” — Garcia made reference to the pandemic early in his speech. He said Holyoke is a community filled with resiliency, from the generations of immigrants who have called the city home to the burdens Holyokers face today amid yet another coronavirus surge.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the inequities in Holyoke, and the city is now in a position to either ignore those institutional problems in the community or address them, Garcia said.

“I was born into this city and grew up in it,” Garcia said. “I’m one of the few lucky ones out of many. My experiences and what I have witnessed has channeled my focus to how we can better work together as neighbors to eliminate structural barriers so we can improve the quality-of-life in our neighborhoods and make peoples’ lives a little better, no matter where in our city you live and what economic background you have.”

Garcia and the other newly elected officials were greeted with loud applause from the crowd. The officials were brought into the auditorium and taken out by the Caledonian Pipe Band. And city middle schooler Aleyana Ramos-Batlle had the crowd sitting in stunned silence as she sang the national anthem.

A fiscally responsible budget was another key priority Garcia highlighted in his address. He promised a “healthy and responsible” budget that forecasts the needs of city departments, mitigates liability, addresses the city’s deficit gap and lack of free cash, and that makes investments in capital assets and infrastructure.

“It begins with changing the long-held practices of irresponsible cuts, desperate transfers, and unaddressed deficits,” he said. “But that’s just the beginning.”

City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee also spoke Monday, thanking the city for electing her for a third term. She referred to her office as “the hub of local government,” and said she was honored to be elected to lead that work again. She thanked her staff, and also made reference to the diversity of those sworn into office Monday.

“The city of Holyoke’s voters have spoken,” she said.

For Garcia, the day begins a four-year term in City Hall’s corner officer. The city clerk and treasurer are also elected to four-year terms, whereas city councilors and School Committee members will serve two-year terms.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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