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November 26, 2013

Along Essex Street, high hope for a mayor called 'Danny'

LAWRENCE — Residents expressed good will and high hopes for Mayor-elect Daniel Rivera yesterday, a day after Mayor William Lantigua conceded defeat in a broadcast on Spanish-language radio and promised to work with Rivera to make the transition at City Hall a smooth one.

Students, workers and retirees along Essex Street just behind City Hall also expressed some fatigue about Lantigua, who balanced four budgets and paved miles of streets but also lost control of the public schools to the state and was mired in scandal and dogged by the indictments of top aides.

Some said they expected the change on the way would be both in style and substance. But they indicated that one thing may stay the same: Many referred to Rivera as “Danny,” suggesting that a city that has been on a first-name basis with its mayor for four years — Lantigua was “Willie” — expects the tradition to continue.

“(I like) the way he spoke, standing up to Lantigua,” said Fernando Landor, 60, a retired parking attendant. “He wasn’t intimidated. He’s promised those employees who are indicted that their salaries are going to be taken away. The citizens of Lawrence voted for (Rivera) because they have faith in him.”

Lantigua suspended several indicted employees, including Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, but continued paying their salaries while they remained at home. Rivera promised to stop the paychecks of employees who are indicted until the charges against them are resolved.

Rivera defeated Lantigua by an unofficial margin of 60 votes on Nov. 5, a margin that expanded to 83 during Saturday’s recount, which made the result official. After conceding Monday, Lantigua said he would meet with Rivera privately yesterday to begin the transition. Neither man could be reached to confirm the meeting had occurred.

The two have not met alone and rarely spoke in at least two years because of the divide that opened between them as Rivera, a two-term city councilor, became increasingly critical of Lantigua’s leadership.

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