The Mount Vernon High School Auditorium was filled to the rafters with about 2,000 people Friday for the inauguration of the city’s new mayor, Richard Thomas. The crowd leapt to its feet and cheered when he first appeared onstage.
At 32, Thomas, a Democrat, is the youngest mayor in the city’s history. Three years ago, at 29, he was the youngest ever elected to Mount Vernon’s city council. Thomas is a Mt Vernon native—born in Mount Vernon Hospital and a graduate of Mount Vernon High.
Thomas has always known that he wanted to be Mount Vernon’s mayor. In fact, that has always been a part of his plan. This according to his wife, Cherish Celetti-Thomas—in a speech at the inauguration ceremony, she affectionately recalled their first day of class at NYU together. “I asked him what he wanted to do,” she said with a smile. “And the first thing he said was, ‘Be the mayor of Mount Vernon,’ this has always been his goal.”
This passion to serve his city has been evident throughout Thomas’ political career.
“He never forgot where he came from,” said former New York State Governor David Paterson, Thomas’ former boss and the administrator of the ceremony’s Mayoral Oath of Office. “He has a drive to make his city great.”
This sentiment was echoed by several of the other speakers at the inauguration.
“He’s a real Mount Vernon guy,” said comedian and fellow Mount Vernon native JB Smoove. “He has a real plan to make things better; he loves this city.”
Richard Thomas was sworn in by former New York Governor David Paterson.
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The city, so far, has loved him back. He won over 70 percent of the votes in the mayoral election. Members of the clergy, the town’s firefighters, its police officers, all were in attendance at Thomas’ inauguration. Rousing vocal performances were given by members of various churches.
Thomas’ election represented a major shift for the city. Former Mayor Ernest Davis occupied the office four of the last five terms. “The people of Mount Vernon wanted change,” said Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive.
“Working together,” Thomas said, “we can create a better quality of life in Mount Vernon.” He pledged to achieve consensus within both his own party and the city government. To do this, he said, he must have not only the support, but also the involvement of the people.
This message to the Mount Vernon citizens was clearly a theme of the evening. Thomas called for them to remain engaged in the process and “raise their voice to redeem the promise of Mount Vernon’s potential.”
“Together,” he said, “we can make Mount Vernon great again.”