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Briefings: Ramos Takes the Wheel in Council Chamber…

Sen. James Welch administers the oath to Councilor Orlando Ramos (WMassP&I)

SPRINGFIELD—Marking a continuation of ward councilors’ hold of the Council presidency, Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos took the oath as President Monday morning. In a modest ceremony before friends, family and City Hall denizens, the Council formally voted to install him to succeed Ward 2 Councilor Michael Fenton after three years heading the chamber.

Senator James Welch, for whom Ramos has worked for years, administered the oath. After thanking Fenton for his service, the new president laid out his priorities in the coming year. Notably, the 34 year-old former union carpenter led with a matter fresh on councilors’ minds.

“My number one priority as Council President, is to ensure that we do everything we can to help improve police-community relations in our city,” Ramos said in his remarks.

Rep. Jose Tosado was the first Latino councilor and council president in Springfield (via Twitter/@josetosado4rep)

In attendance were Springfield’s Latino State Representatives Carlos Gonzalez and Jose Tosado, the latter of whom Ramos acknowledged as the first Latino councilor and council president. Democrats political leaders from Ward 8, union officials Latino School Committee members were on hand, too.

Ward 1 Councilor Adam Gomez, the body’s other Latino councilor, formally nominated Ramos. As the only nominee at December’s informal caucus, he won the job unanimously. Councilors also installed at-large Councilor Justin Hurst as Council Vice-President.

Wearing a deep blue suit, Ramos acknowledged progress made on the police commission and residency but also diversity on the Council itself. Yet he was also self-deprecating, noting his bumpy path to 36 Court Street.

“It’s been an interesting journey for me to get to where I stand today,” he said. “Many of you may remember the hurdles I had to overcome.”

In 2009, when Springfield held its first ward election in 50 years, and in a rematch two years later, he lost to John Lysak. In 2013, Ramos bested Lysak and became Ward 8’s councilor, representing Indian Orchard, Boston Road and part of Pine Point.

Under Fenton, Ramos chaired the Economic Development committee reviewing major projects and development issues like historic preservation.

Ramos indicated bridging the chasm between Pearl Street and residents was a top goal. (via Twitter/@spd_hq)

He has been particularly outspoken on policing, backing the stillborn push to revive Police Commission in 2014. Ramos also panned what he considered to be insensitive characterizations of crime victims made by Sgt. John Delaney, the department’s public information officer. Delaney’s defenders pushed back, but an admonition from Commissioner John Barbieri seemingly prompted a slight shift in tone.

“Because we live in a country that was built on the premise that all men are created equal, a simple request to be treated as a human being, is not too much to ask!” he exhorted Monday morning.

Ramos also paid special thanks to Council staff, Welch, for whom Ramos serves as district director, and his daughter Ariana. Perhaps not uniquely, Ramos has identified his daughter as an anchor in his life. Ramos’ closing thoughts, a passage from a college paper of his, were a clear allusion to her.

“I believe that as long as I remember the struggles that I went through in my lifetime, I can hold on to the values that make me who I am and use my experiences to help make my community better for the next generation.”