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Perez Plans Changes

By Rebeca Logan

December 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001
EFE. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON -- The first Hispanic mayor of Hartford, Conn., Eddie Alberto Pérez, plans to make changes to broaden the responsibilities of the mayor's office.

After winning the Hartford mayoral election with nearly 70 percent of the vote, Pérez now faces the challenge of administering a city with a serious fiscal deficit, latent tensions between police and minorities and the threat of a public employees' strike.

The capital city's new mayor, a former gang member who grew up in a poor family, said he won the election by going door-to-door to visit voters in a city that is 40.5 percent Hispanic and 38.1 percent black.

The mayor-elect, sworn into office Tuesday, said he will use the same dedication to work to improve the quality of life for Hartford's 121,000 residents.

In an interview with the city's first Latino leader, Pérez noted he was elected because voters recognized the work he has done in Hartford over the years, and because he did not limit himself to collaborating with only Latinos. ty.

"I worked with several Hartford communities, including Anglos, African-Americans, Caribbeans and others. I have been working in the community for 23 years," said Pérez, who as the president of a non-profit organization, implemented a pilot program that brought more than $110 million into community work and education programs.

The mayor also attributed his success to a populist base.

"I never imagined that one day I'd be mayor. It's something that came to me, people came to me and said I was going to be the next mayor," Pérez said.

His recent decision to join the political arena is part of a commitment to fight for social justice and take advantage of the opportunity to bring about change, the mayor-elect said.

Although he knows he will face many challenges, Pérez says he already has a plan to improve the city's educational system, financial problems and a lack of affordable housing.

His first challenge will be to broaden mayoral powers, since, according to the city charter, the office carries few responsibilities.

Pérez plans to hold a referendum in November to re-write the city's charter.

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