LAWRENCE –Daniel Rivera, who in November beat incumbent Mayor William Lantigua by only 81 votes, was sworn in today before more than 500 supporters who packed the old Lawrence High School, now known as the North Common Education Complex.
The city’s new mayor pledged he would strive for safer streets, better schools, and a stronger local economy that would attract more jobs for many here who for years have been unemployed.
He envisioned a future in which Lawrence, a once-bustling mill city whose flourishing factories attracted immigrants from all over the world, could be great again. Rivera, a 43-year-old Army veteran, said there is no doubt the effort will be strenuous.
Almost 29 percent of the city’s residents are living below the poverty level, compared with 11 percent statewide. The police force is down about 30 officers, a decrease that many blame for rising crime rates in the city, and 14 percent of the city’s 77,000 residents are unemployed.
“Hard work — that quiet, thoughtful, and undaunted work — can conquer any wilderness, any ocean migration, any roaring river, and even win a campaign to change a city,’’ Rivera said. “You just have to get to work. So let’s get to work.’’
US Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of his early supporters, swore him in as Rivera’s wife, Paula, stood by him, holding a bible.
Warren told the crowd that Rivera’s victory signaled a choice by the city to make a “fresh start.’’
“Lawrence chose safer neighborhoods and better schools,’’ she said. “Lawrence chose to attract more jobs … Lawrence chose to create opportunities for all its people and build a future for all its children.’’
None of the various dignitaries who spoke mentioned Lantigua, whose four years in office were beset by federal and state investigations and who saw top allies indicted on public corruption charges. Lantigua was never accused of wrongdoing.
Mery Motol-Rivols, a 50-year-old unemployed teacher who came to Rivera’s swearing-in, said she was glad no one mentioned the former mayor.
“Let’s forget the past and start anew,’’ she said.
Motol-Rivols said her greatest hope is that Rivera will find ways to improve Lawrence’s economy. Motol-Rivols said she has been without work for three years.
“He’s a big kid,’’ she said of the new mayor. “He’s so jovial and always smiling. He has so much energy.’’