Schenectady councilwoman takes historic oath of office

Porterfield becomes first African American woman elected to City Council

Friday, January 4, 2013
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Schenectady city Councilwoman Marion Porterfield takes the oath of office as her son, Reginald, holds the Bible on Friday at City Hall.
Schenectady city Councilwoman Marion Porterfield takes the oath of office as her son, Reginald, holds the Bible on Friday at City Hall.

— Marion Porterfield, the first African American woman to be elected to the Schenectady City Council, was sworn in Friday evening at City Hall with family, friends and fellow council members in attendance.

“It’s a victory for all of us. Together we can accomplish wonderful things,” Porterfield said about her election in November to a one-year term to fill a vacancy on the council. “Schenectady is on its way up. Let’s work together to continue all the wonderful things happening in Schenectady today.”

The only other African American council member was Joseph Allen; he served for 16 years, stepping down in 2011. Porterfield, a Democrat, was appointed to the council in April to fill the vacancy created by McCarthy’s election as mayor. She then ran for the seat in a special election and won both the primary and general election, defeating Republican Richard Patierne in the latter.

“She was the right person at the right time,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said as he welcomed about 100 people to the oath of office ceremony in the City Council chambers.

In November, she will have to run again for a full four-year term.

“I may be the first African American female elected to the council, but I don’t think I will be the last,” Porterfield said, to loud applause.

Porterfield, 56, is a longtime resident of Schenectady. She graduated from the former Linton High School and most recently ran the federally funded Weed and Seed program in the city that involved “weeding” out crime and “seeding” the community with positive programs.

Albany City Court Judge Helena Heath-Roland administered the oath of office to Porterfield. Walter Simpkins, executive director of Community Fathers Inc., was the master of ceremonies for the 40-minute event.

Porterfield said she wanted to specifically thank her mother for “always being there for me. ... I want to thank God for this part of my life and for my loving and supportive family.”

In a prayer of dedication to service, the Rev. Philip Grigsby urged Porterfield to “have a vision for the common good, a concern and vision for justice. Be fruitful, be faithful ... for the welfare of the community.”

In 2011. Porterfield was honored as an Unsung Heroine by the Schenectady YWCA and received the Schenectady County Democratic Committee Community Service Award. She has earned many other community recognitions and served as a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

“Public service is my passion, and I am excited at this opportunity to represent and serve the citizens of Schenectady,” Porterfield said.

The ceremony, which was followed by a reception on the first floor of City Hall, included an opening prayer by the Rev. Diana Fletcher and introductions and acknowledgements by City Councilwoman Peggy King and Douglas Williams, a Democratic committeeman in the Union-Nott district.

Musician Lionel Hamilton sang “Ordinary People” in Porterfield’s honor.

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