Officially sworn in, Richards becomes first Black man to serve as Queens borough president

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Photo via Twitter/@QNSBPRichards

For the first time since the creation of the Queens borough president’s office 122 years ago, a Black man will serve as Queens’ top executive.

Former Councilman Donovan Richards was sworn into office Wednesday, Dec. 2, a day after the results of the November Queens borough president race were certified by the New York City Board of Elections.

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve, Queens,” Richards said on Twitter. “Let’s get to work.”

Richards beat out Republican challenger Joann Ariola in the November election, receiving 518,840 votes to Ariola’s 205,893 votes. The former southeast Queens councilman takes over the office from Sharon Lee, who served as acting borough president since January 2020, when former Borough President Melinda Katz was sworn in as Queens district attorney.

Lee, who saw the borough through a year marred by the COVID-19 crisis, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve Queens in a statement earlier this week.

“It has been an honor to serve as Queens borough president throughout this particularly challenging year,” Lee said. “Despite staying on much longer than expected, my commitment to serve the people of Queens as necessary is now fulfilled. The ‘Borough of Families’ is now in great hands with incoming Borough President Donovan Richards.”

The election cycle of borough president was thrown into flux after the special election to replace Katz, which was originally scheduled for March, was cancelled to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Voters will head to the polls to vote again for borough president during the June 2021 primaries and the November 2021 general election, when Katz’s term was officially set to end.

Upon the certification of his victory, Richards, who recently established a robust transition team, thanked Lee for her service and vowed to pick up where she left off.

“Over the last few months, Acting Borough President Sharon Lee has taken on the challenges of this pandemic head on and led Queens with grace through this difficult time,” Richards said. “Since the election, she has worked hard to ensure a smooth transition and ensure that the office of borough president continues to deliver for Queens residents. I look forward to building on the foundation she has built to fight food insecurity and ensure that our institutions and residents have access to PPE. I thank her again for the great work she has done over the last few months and wish her continued success in the future.”