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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Longtime City Council staffer honored, Santana and FitzGerald deliver maiden speeches

DJ Mara
Juan Aurelio Lopez, right, a longtime City Council staffer, was honored at this week’s meeting for his 46 years of service to the City of Boston. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Longtime City Council staffer Juan Aurelio Lopez was honored for more than four decades of service to the city of Boston. Additionally, Councilors Henry Santana and John FitzGerald delivered their maiden speeches at this week’s meeting.  

Lopez honored as city’s historian

Lopez began his career working for the city of Boston in 1978 and has worked in many capacities over the last 46 years. 

Remarking on his work in the community over the past decades, Lopez said, “The thing that truly makes America great is that forging of unity. When there is that love and respect for one another, el futuro será nuestro. The future will be ours.” 

Within the city’s executive branch, Lopez worked in the Kevin White, Raymond Flynn, and Thomas Menino administrations as a field representative and service coordinator, specifically for the Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill Little City Hall. Lopez also worked as the senior hearing officer for the city’s Rent Equity Board and the Mayor’s Hispanic liaison. 

In the legislative branch, Lopez has served as the liaison to Legislative Committees, as a budget analyst, and currently serves as the research and policy director for the Boston City Council. 

The Iannella Chamber was standing-room-only for Wednesday’s meeting, with current and former elected officials in attendance to offer Lopez their thanks and a job incredibly well done. 

Particularly notable was the presence of Mayor Michelle Wu, Boston Housing Authority administrator Kenzie Bok, Clerk Magistrate Maura Hennigan, former City Councilor Josh Zakim, and former State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez. 

Wu emphasized that Lopez has been an inspiration and mentor for generations of Bostonians coming through local government, whether in elected or appointed capacities. Additionally, Wu noted that Lopez has served as the official City Hall tour guide, taking groups to the different areas of the building and teaching them about the city’s history. 

“Juan is the person who helped me feel welcomed in this building,” said Wu. “I know I am just one of thousands of people where Juan was that first smiling face, mentor, and guide.”  

Hennigan previously served as a member of the Boston City Council, both as an at-large member and as the District 6 Councilor. 

“Juan has been an advocate for Latinos, but really, an advocate for everybody,” said Hennigan. “He showed me the ropes like he showed Mayor Wu and all of you [councilors].” 

Before her work as the Administrator of the Boston Housing Authority, Kenzie Bok served as the District 8 City Councilor, preceding Councilor Sharon Durkan. Bok noted that she and Lopez were both historians “hiding out at the City Council” and that Lopez had been an integral part of documenting the city’s history. 

“Juan is himself institutional history and memory for this body, and he also carries an incredible passion for the whole history of the city of Boston,” said Bok. 

Zakim echoed the remarks made by Wu and many councilors that Lopez has been a person to lean on when beginning their roles in government. 

“My team and I leaned on [Lopez] to learn how to get around City Hall, but also on learning the intricacies of filing motions, hearing orders, and getting people on the payroll,” Zakim said. 

Sánchez noted that Lopez has fostered a sense of community for all who enter City Hall, particularly noting an experience where he was protesting at City Hall at age 13.  

“What he did for me at 13 years old and has continued to do so for others over the last 46 years has not only made people feel better, but made people feel at home [at City Hall],” Sánchez said. “He did this all while being out in the community and listening to communities looking for a voice [in government].”  

Incumbent councilors echoed the points of previous speakers, including City Council President Ruthzee Louijeune, who first joined the City Council in 2022. 

“Juan was one of the first friendly faces I saw when I started almost three years ago,” said Louijeune. “You have been a beacon of light for each and every one of my colleagues.” 

Santana and FitzGerald deliver maiden speeches

Boston City Council staffer honored
At-large Councilor Henry Santana, far left, gives his maiden speech at this week’s City Council meeting as his colleagues applaud. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Santana’s maiden, or inaugural, speech was related to docket 0398, an order for a hearing to discuss strategies to develop mixed-income social housing throughout the city. 

Santana began his speech by thanking Boston residents for entrusting him with the honor of serving as an at-large city councilor. 

“I am here to represent all Bostonians, to hear your needs, your challenges, and your aspirations,” said Santana. “I am here to meet them by working with my colleagues on the city councilor and in the administration.” 

Santana went on to note Boston’s complicated history with the decades-long practice known as redlining, which rated property areas from “best” to “hazardous”—based on the race and income of residents—and denied credit to Black Americans. Additionally, Santana noted that in the 1950s and ‘60s, Boston demolished many housing developments in the name of urban renewal. 

“These practices created a city segregated by race and income,” said Santana. 

Santana said that moving forward, Boston needs to focus on creating mixed-level housing and pathways for residents to accumulate wealth and improve their financial circumstances. 

“To end these financial cliffs, we need new programs that provide a range of housing options for all income levels,” said Santana. 

Santana ended his maiden speech by telling his own story, one of a boy who was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to Boston at age three. He grew up in public housing and attended Boston Public Schools, read books in Boston public libraries, and attended youth programs sponsored by the city. 

“That child would not have believed that one day, he would be standing before you as a Boston City Councilor,” said Santana. “Because of our community investments [in public housing], here I am.” 

FitzGerald’s maiden speech was related to docket 0415, an order for a hearing to discuss the accessibility of trauma response resources in the city and areas for potential expansion. 

FitzGerald noted that while campaigning, he emphasized the central theme of keeping families in Boston. He noted that housing, schools, and jobs are among the infrastructural programs that help achieve this mission.

“All of these cannot exist without one overlying principle,” said FitzGerald. “To keep families in Boston, an individual’s mental health around these matters must be prioritized.” 

FitzGerald recalled that a few hours before his swearing-in ceremony, he learned of a tragedy where a young man’s life was claimed by gun violence at a shooting in Dorchester. This was also the first murder in Boston in 2024. 

“As [residents] spoke about the incident, I thought about the profound traumatic outcomes that these individuals have to live with moving forward,’ said FitzGerald. 

FitzGerald hopes that through a hearing, the council can shed light on the current state of the city’s trauma response resources and lend greater support to the city employees who offer these critical services. 

“Traumatic experiences carry long-lasting implications,” said FitzGerald. “It is imperative that we take it upon ourselves as a city to be there to stop that cycle [of crime and trauma].” 

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DJ Mara, Assistant News Editor

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