New President, More Diversity for Springfield City Council

The Springfield City Council is scheduled to convene its new two-year session on Monday, January 6th, with a new president and its most diverse body to date.

President-elect Michael Fenton will turn 27 a day before he’s sworn in, making him the youngest person ever to head the 13-member body. And for the first time in the city’s history, people of color will constitute a majority on the council.

Fenton says the board’s makeup is a positive reflection of the ward representation system that began with the 2009 elections. But he adds the diverse make-up is not limited to race.

“We have geographic diversity,” Fenton says. “We’ve got people from all different neighborhoods. We’ve got people from all different types of socioeconomic backgrounds, religious backgrounds. And I’m happy to see that change because I think the body is more informed for it.”

Springfield School Committee members are also scheduled to be sworn in on January 6th. And like the City Council, people of color will form a majority on the 7-member board for the first time in the city’s history.

Meanwhile, Fenton says he expects lively and heated discussions on some issues facing the city this year.

“We’re going to be doing zoning for the casino development in the South End,” he says. “We’re also going to be having ongoing conversations about how to deal with the pawn brokers and junk dealers ordinance. And there are also proposals before the council to revive both the Police and Fire commissions in the city. So I expect the debates to be thorough, contentious and hopefully will result in positive outcomes for the city.”

Fenton says public safety and economic development will continue to be the top priorities on his agenda for the new term. But he won’t provide any details for now, preferring to wait until the council meets.

City councilors will get their first pay increase in nearly 16 years come the new term, raising the annual salary to $19,000. Fenton, as council president, will earn an additional $500.