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Eric Batista, a Puerto Rican man wearing glasses from the neck up. He is smiling.
Photo courtesy of the City of Worcester

Worcester appoints first Latino to position of city manager

The Massachusetts city has appointed Eric Batista to the permanent role, more than six months after being named to an acting role.

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Eric Batista, previously acting city manager for Worcester, MA, has been appointed as the first Latino city manager following an 8-3 vote by the city council on Tuesday,  abandoning a plan to commit to a national search for a replacement of the position.

Batista has served as acting city manager since former city manager Edward Augustus stepped down from the position six months ago.

“He definitely has all the qualifications, as proven to me over the last several months,” Mayor Joseph Petty said to Worcester Business Journal.

“He has a great handle on all the issues. People are looking for some permanency here in the community, whether it be community groups, developers, or the business community here in the city of Worcester,” he continued.

The City of Worcester uses a style of management known as Plan E, or a council-manager form of governance.

As city manager, Batista will manage the day-to-day operations of the City, answering to the elected Councilmembers.

“I’ve never aspired to be a city manager or...a town manager,” Batista said, “But I did aspire to be the city manager of Worcester. I don’t have an interest in being the city manager of Cambridge or Lowell,” Batista said to Mass Live.

Born in Puerto Rico, Batista and his family moved to Worcester when he was 7 years old. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics from UMass Amherst and his MBA from Assumption College.

During his tenure within the municipal government, Batista has secured over $3 million for the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, overseen the creation of the City's Municipal Strategic Plan and Performance measures, and served on regional nonprofit organizations' oversight boards.

The decision to make Batista’s position as city manager permanent was not one done easily however, with Councilmembers-at-large Khrystian King and Thu Nguyen, and District 5 Councilor Etel Haxhiaj voting against the appointment.

“He would have outshined [other candidates], but we’ll never know that that was a possibility. That is a cloud that will hang over his head, and that is unfair,” said District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera, a supporter of Batista’s appointment.

The cause of the controversy followed a 10-1 Council vote to accept a request for proposals from firms to conduct a search for city manager candidates.

However, only one bid was submitted, leading to the abandonment of the search following a 6-5 council vote.

"We believe based upon our experiences in working with Mr. Batista in his various roles at city hall and during his tenure as the Acting City Manager that he will bring a professionalism and work ethic that will continue the economic momentum in the city as well as address the complex challenges and opportunities that present themselves to the city," said Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Timothy Murray, in a statement on Wednesday.

"Moreover, Mr. Batista’s experience coming to Worcester from Puerto Rico with his family as a seven-year-old child is the quintessential Worcester story,” he continued.

Batista and the City of Worcester will fully negotiate an agreement between the two in the future, officially cementing his appointment.

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