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Evans announces first members of his administration

Less than a month before taking the oath of office, Mayor-Elect Malik Evans introduces the first 13 members of his staff on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.
James Brown
Less than a month before taking the oath of office, Mayor-elect Malik Evans introduces the first members of his staff on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

In response to one of Rochester’s most violent years on record, Mayor-elect Malik Evans’ administration will have a top-level staffer dedicated to working with violence prevention programs.

Victor Saunders is one of 13 people Evans announced Friday as potential members of his administration. Several of the roles require approval by Rochester City Council.

Saunders is expected to serve as the mayor’s adviser for violence prevention programs. He’s best known for founding Pathways to Peace, which he ran for the better part of two decades, and currently works at the Center for Youth.

After seeing numerous shootings in his northeast Rochester neighborhood, Saunders said he feels a need to do more. He said the city already has the tools to slow the violence.

“We will not reinvent the wheel,” Saunders said. “We will call upon all community organizations that have something to offer to eliminate some of these atrocities.”

When it comes to combating violence, Evans said he learned a lot from his recent trip to Newark, New Jersey, where he visited Mayor Ras Baraka. Evans said Newark handled its George Floyd-related unrest and protests without a police officer firing a shot.

“They have a formula that is working there,” Evans said. “We will be deploying many of the strategies that Newark has.

“People have all these ideas and they’re all esoteric. I can tell you, we’ve got like 100 requests from people who want to spin an idea. What we need is practical things that have worked,” Evans continued.

Pathways to Peace co-founder Victor Saunders is introduced to reporters on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, ahead of joining Malik Evans' administration.
James Brown
Pathways to Peace co-founder Victor Saunders is introduced to reporters on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, ahead of joining Malik Evans' administration.

Evans also intends to drop the interim tag from Fire Chief Felipe Hernandez’s title, making him the first Hispanic person to hold that position permanently. He’s been running the department since January, when former Chief Will Jackson retired.

When it comes to serving Rochester, Hernandez said representation matters.

“I always say it wasn’t that I did a better job than others, but I think as a community, when they see themselves in you, they feel comfortable talking to you,” Hernandez said.

Evans also announced new leadership for the city of Rochester’s communications, environmental services, corporation counsel and human resources departments. He said interim Police Chief David Smith will remain in place as the city prepares to do a nationwide search for a new leader of the department. He also intends to retain Chris Wagner, who has worked for the city’s budget office since former Mayor Tom Ryan’s administration.

Hilda Rosario Escher, leader of IBERO American Action League for a quarter-century, was also introduced as director of special projects. Several hours later, however, the Evans administration released the following statement: "Hilda Rosario-Escher has just informed me that she is no longer able to serve as Director of Special Projects in my administration. I wish her the best in all her endeavors."

He also introduced several new advisers, including Special Assistant to the Mayor John Brach. Evans said Brach’s role will focus on understanding residents’ needs by analyzing data.

“Oftentimes what happens is someone will say, ‘I’m speaking for the community’ and they’ll have no data to back up what they’re saying,” Evans said. “What we would like to have on a dashboard is this is what the community is saying.”

A list of Evans’ staffers is below:

  • Chief of Staff Tamara Mayberry  
  • Director of Human Resources Rose Nichols  
  • Director of Communications and Special Events Barbara Pierce  
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget Chris Wagner  
  • Special Assistant to the Mayor John Brach  
  • Mayors Advisor on Violence Prevention Programs Victor Saunders  
  • Liaison to City Council Josanne Reaves  
  • Corporation Counsel Linda Kingsley  
  • Commissioner of Department of Environmental Services Richard Perrin   
  • Commissioner of Department of Recreation and Human Services Shirley Green  
  • Fire Chief Felipe Hernandez  
  • Director of Emergency Communications Michael Cerreto  
  • Interim Police Chief David Smith 
James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.