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City of Rochester Welcomes First Openly Gay Mayor and First African American Female Deputy Mayor

Staff report

Mayor James Patrick Smith at City’s swearing-in ceremony (Photo courtesy of City of Rochester)

The city of Rochester welcomes its first openly gay mayor along with its first African American deputy mayor.

James Patrick Smith was sworn in as mayor on Thur., Dec. 2, and Tassie Demps was appointed as the city’s deputy mayor. Smith arrives as Rochester’s new mayor; but his term ends when Mayor-Elect Malik Evans is sworn in on January 1, 2022.

Smith is the city’s first openly gay person to serve as mayor. And Smith is not alone as a new demographic presence within the city’s administrative ranks. Demps is the first Black woman appointed to serve as the city’s deputy mayor.

The city issued a statement saying New York Appellate Judge Joanne Winslow, a pioneering member of Rochester’s LGBTQ+ community, administered the oath of office to Smith as departing mayor Lovely Warren held the Bible at the ceremony.

Smith said, “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,” and added, “My pledge today to the people of Rochester is to fulfill the awesome responsibilities of this role with integrity, purpose and grace.”

“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,” stated Smith, who served as the city’s deputy mayor since 2019; prior to that, he was the city’s director of communications and special events from 2015 until his appointment to deputy mayor.

Smith’s municipal service background also includes 25 years in government positions such as deputy county executive, Seneca County manager and chief executive officer and director of the Monroe County Water Authority.

Deputy Mayor Tassie Demps at City’s swearing-in ceremony. (Photo courtesy of City of Rochester)

Smith swiftly appointed Demps to serve as his deputy mayor. Prior to that appointment Demps was the city’s director of human resources. Demps is the city’s first African-American woman to hold deputy mayorship.

Demps has served with city of Rochester for several decades. She began as a purchasing control clerk in 1990, according to information provided by the city. Demps’ decades of city-based work experience equips her with a deep and comprehensive understanding of city operations with a distinct insight into roles of the employees in every department.

“When I came to work in City Hall more than 30 years ago, I could not have imagined that I would one day to be asked to fill the role of the city’s highest appointed position,” said Demps. “I am incredibly honored to be the first African-American woman to hold this title and I am grateful for this opportunity to validate by example Rochester‘s commitment to nurturing talent and encouraging all of its employees to not only succeed but flourish.”

“Tassie Demps is one of City Hall’s most trusted and accomplished administrators and advisors with an unmatched perspective of the most important resource across the enterprise,” Smith said. “Her institutional knowledge of city government and unsurpassed competence will be a tremendous benefit as we manage the transition. I want to thank her for stepping into this role while also providing me the honor to further enhance the historic significance of this day.”