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Meléndez, Lupien named City Council leaders as new members sworn in

Rochester City Council President Miguel Meléndez
Gino Fanelli/CITY Magazine
Rochester City Council President Miguel Meléndez

Rochester City Councilmembers Miguel Meléndez and Mary Lupien will serve as the legislative body’s new president and vice president, respectively.

Their election Monday afternoon by their City Council colleagues came as a surprise to followers of city politics, many of whom believed longtime Councilmember Willie Lightfoot would be selected president.

Meléndez, a community advocate with the Ibero-American League, had been confirmed to his first elected term on City Council only minutes before being elected president. He has served on Council since the fall of 2020 after being appointed to the seat vacated by Jackie Ortiz, who left to become Monroe County’s Democratic election commissioner.

Council members unanimously selected Meléndez to fill the president’s seat, which was previously held by Loretta Scott, who did not seek re-election.

Since being elected in 2019 to represent the city’s east district, Lupien has been a divisive figure on City Council. A vocal progressive, she has often provided the sole dissenting vote on legislation related to policing and urban development contracts. She was narrowly confirmed by a vote of 5 to 4.

Councilmembers Michael Patterson, LaShay Harris, Jose Peo, and Lightfoot voted against Lupien’s appointment. Lightfoot, who has been the Council’s vice president for the past two and a half years, will revert back to serving as a regular at-large member.

“I can tell you, it’s been a long couple days of us going over this,” Lupien said.

The president and vice president serve as leadership seats for the Council. The president, for example, is tasked with receiving all legislation submitted by council members. The president is expected, but not required, to in turn formally introduce legislation by submitting it to the city clerk.

Lupien on Monday proposed altering the rules to require the president to promptly submit legislation to the city clerk, but her push failed by a vote of 5 to 4.

The votes appointing the new leaders followed the swearing in of five City Council at-large seats. Alongside Meléndez, Stanley Martin and Kim Smith were seated to their first terms, while Mitch Gruber and Lightfoot were appointed to their second terms.

Martin, a local leader in Black Lives Matter protests, and Smith, a former county Department of Health worker who now works as an advocate for VOCAL-NY, mark a progressive shift on Council.

During her swearing-in, Martin took two oaths of office — the traditional vow to abide by the Constitution, and a second to the Rochester community.

“I swear I will faithfully put people over profits, that I will lead with honesty, transparency, and integrity,” Martin said. “And I swear to make decisions, hand in hand, with my comrades.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.