January 15th, 2014
New Council Members Take Oath of Office
Judge Eddie Williams administers the oath of office during the swearing-in of council members Karen Mejia, Genie Abrams, Regina Angelo and Cindy Holmes. Hudson Valley Press/CHUCK STEWART, JR.
NEWBURGH – It was standing room only in Newburgh’s City Hall last Saturday as four new council members were sworn in.
The four women, and those gathered, knew this event was special. It was the first time that residents in the City of Newburgh voted for candidates in a specific ward, rather than the city as a whole.
Only two years prior, residents voted to change the city’s representation by moving to a ward system. According to former Mayor Nicholas Valentine, it was the first change to the city’s charter in nearly a century.
That change also expanded the council from five to seven members.
On Saturday those new representatives, Genie Abrams, Cindy Holmes, and Karen Mejia, took their ceremonial oath of office. The fourth, Regina Angelo, has served on the council since 1972, however this is the first time she will represent a ward.
“A lot of the people felt as though they weren’t being represented as well as they should be,” said Regina Angelo, about the change to the newly formed ward system. She also told her fellow council members, “You are married to the City for the next four years.” She further asked that they each, “Honor and respect your fellow council members.”
The brief ceremony included an invocation by The Rev. Timothy J. Riss, who asked God to grant the new council members strength and to bless the City of Newburgh.
Judge Eddie Loren Williams administered the oath of office to the council, which was met with thunderous applause from well-wishers.
Mayor Judy Kennedy said of the new council, “I feel like I’ve got a council that will really work with me now and I’m very excited about it.”
Two current council members, Gay Lee and Cedric Brown, represent the city at large, as does Mayor Judy Kennedy.
Councilwoman Karen Mejia knows the road ahead won’t be easy. Mejia said, “In these difficult moments, I think it’s important for us all to remember the words of the great Nelson Mandela, ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done.’”
Mejia has also set up a website, newburghward1.org, where residents can stay involved with city government.
Councilwoman Cindy Holmes said, “We are going to bring a new dynamic to the council. We are going to work as a team to bring Newburgh back to the place it once was.”
“The most important thing to me,” said Councilwoman Genie Abrams, “is to try to get better policing in the city, not necessarily more policing but better, more community oriented policing.”
The Newburgh City Council will next meet for a workshop session on January 23rd at 6:00 P.M., followed by the City Council meeting on January 27th at 7:00 P.M.