Aurora's first black mayor takes office

  • Richard Irvin says he will be a leader who "unites, not divides" as he becomes the first black mayor of Aurora, the state's second-largest city.

      Richard Irvin says he will be a leader who "unites, not divides" as he becomes the first black mayor of Aurora, the state's second-largest city. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin celebrates Tuesday after bring sworn in during a ceremony at the Paramount Theatre. "Now is the time to build our Aurora together," he told the crowd.

      Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin celebrates Tuesday after bring sworn in during a ceremony at the Paramount Theatre. "Now is the time to build our Aurora together," he told the crowd. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Richard Irvin, Aurora's new mayor, is sworn in by Second District Appellate Judge Joseph Birkett Tuesday at the Paramount Theatre. Irvin is the 59th mayor in the city's 180-year history.

      Richard Irvin, Aurora's new mayor, is sworn in by Second District Appellate Judge Joseph Birkett Tuesday at the Paramount Theatre. Irvin is the 59th mayor in the city's 180-year history. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/10/2017 8:45 PM

An Aurora man who has dreamed of leading his city for 20 years stood on stage and announced it for the first time.

"My name is Richard C. Irvin, and I am the mayor of Aurora," the 46-year-old attorney told a crowd Tuesday night as he became the first black mayor in the city's 180-year-old history.

 

His status as the top elected official and day-to-day CEO of Illinois' second-largest city makes him a role model for young people, said Clayton Muhammad, Aurora's director of community relations and public information.

"He had a dream that someday he could lead this city," Muhammad said about the city's 59th mayor, who grew up in an Aurora public housing complex raised by a single mother. "You can change the narrative. You can shatter stereotypes. You can break barriers."

Irvin broke the barrier to reach his city's highest office when he narrowly defeated Richard "Rick" Guzman in the April 4 election. By a margin of 171 votes, Irvin emerged victorious in what was his third campaign for mayor.

As he accepted the mayor's gavel from former acting Mayor Robert O'Connor, Irvin called it "rich with history and heavy with the burden of responsibility," much like the mayor's role itself.

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He told an audience gathered for his inauguration at the downtown Paramount Theatre that he gains his strength from his great-aunt, the matriarch of his family, a lifelong Auroran who recently turned 100 and has seen the city through proud and regrettable moments.

From the times when people of color were not allowed in all parts of the city and women were not included in leadership, Irvin said Aurora has progressed into a diverse place that welcomes all.

"I'm a leader who unites, not divides," he said. "Now is the time to build our Aurora together."

While power transitioned from O'Connor to Irvin, the shift actually marks a change in administration from the nearly 12 years Tom Weisner led the city. Weisner, who has had cancer for much of his three terms, stepped down last fall for health reasons.

"Sir, you got us here," Irvin said to Weisner, who had topped him during Irvin's two previous mayoral campaigns, "and now it's time to build on your successes. Thank you for your service."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Irvin rises to his post as mayor after 10 years serving as an alderman at large. He was sworn in Tuesday along with O'Connor, who is beginning his ninth term as alderman at large, as well as Ward 2 Alderman Juany Garzy, Ward 4 Alderman Bill Donnell, Ward 7 Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, Ward 9 Alderman Edward Bugg and Ward 10 Alderman Judd Lofchie.

Second District Appellate Judge Joseph Birkett administered Irvin's oath.

"I know Richard, who is a man of great integrity, high energy and a great team player," Birkett said. "He's going to lead the city of Aurora like we've never seen before."

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