Rochester’s first openly-gay mayor, James Smith begins month-long term with COVID-19

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As of Thursday, James Smith is the new mayor of Rochester. The former deputy mayor is making history as the first openly gay person to become mayor in the city.

Smith was officially sworn in overnight, the city shared a video of the virtual ceremony on YouTube. The ceremony was virtual because he tested positive for COVID-19.

The new interim mayor is no stranger to politics. Before coming to the City of Rochester, he was County Manager in Seneca County. He worked his way up the republican party to become deputy Monroe County Executive, and he also served as Executive Director of the Monroe County Water Authority.

Since 2019 he has served as deputy mayor of the city under Lovely Warren’s administration.

In a statement shared by the city on Thursday, Smith said:

“My pledge today to the people of Rochester is to fulfill the awesome responsibilities of this role with integrity, purpose, and grace. Each day presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for our city, and I will embrace them in a way that continues the progress of the previous Administration and supports the next Administration’s preparations for success. I am incredibly grateful for the blessings of my life’s experiences as a public servant and gay man, which give me the confidence to navigate this transition and honor the achievements and sacrifice of Rochester’s LGBTQ+ community who have made this historic moment both possible and poignant.”

More on James Smith here.

Smith will be in office for exactly 30 days. After that, incoming mayor-elect Malik Evans will be sworn in on Jan.1. The reason Smith is only taking over for one month is because of the timing of Lovely Warren’s resignation.

See News10NBC’s Emily Putnam’s morning preview on News10NBC Today below.

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Warren agreed to resign after accepting a plea deal to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge at the beginning of October. She and two others were accused of running a scheme to defraud during her 2017 re-election campaign.

When it became official in October that Smith would be taking over temporarily, News10NBC asked him what he thought he could accomplish during his short time in office.

“I mean obviously yes, the tenure of my mayoralty will be a short one and I don’t expect it’ll be one that you’ll see a lot of policy changes or anything like that,” said Smith. “But at the same time, I think my task and my duty is to make sure the citizens are served.”

Smith will be the city’s 70th mayor chronologically, however, he’s not the 70th person to hold the job. 67 people have had the title. Three of them – including Lovely Warren – served for more than one term.

When he takes office in January, Malik Evans will be the 71st mayor of Rochester.

In another move, the city said Smith appointed Tassie Demps, the City’s Director of Human Resources, as Deputy Mayor. She is the City’s first African-American woman to hold that title.

See News10NBC’s Jennifer Mobilia’s full interview with the new mayor in the video in the player below:

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