Helen Hudson Makes History as the First Woman African-American President of the Syracuse Common Council


Newly elected Syracuse City Court Judge Hon. Derrek Thomas gave the oath of office, as Helen’s mother holds Bible.

 As the city of Syracuse governmental transition continues, on this night there’s palpable energy emanating from the Common Council Chamber.

In a filled to capacity City Hall Council Chambers Helen Hudson was sworn in, making history as the woman African-American President of the Syracuse Common Council. There was a sense of cautious optimism radiating throughout the event, a glow that filled the room as people greeted each other with broad smiles and hugs. Former United Way Director Frank Lazarski was Master of Ceremonies, smoothly transitioning from quips about Ms. Hudson to the duties of keeping the event moving along.  Lazarski described how Helen worked with unions to connect displaced workers with services, developed the Keeping Kid’s Safe Guidebook, in addition to other connections made through her position at the United Way. Her innovations became the subject of inquiries from United Way operations in other parts of the country. And of course Hudson’s well documented commitment to the victims of gun violence, an advocate being there whenever called or appearing when needed.

Helen Hudson Swearing In Ceremony, packed Chamber

It became clear as the program began; Hudson’s theme for the evening was our future as a city, and the children of Syracuse. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by children; Kaedence Wofford, Montana Pullins and Samir Salaam Jennings Bey. Newly elected Syracuse City Court Judge Hon. Derrek Thomas gave the oath of office, as Helen’s mother held the Bible, at its conclusion the crowd erupted in congratulatory applause.

History is being lived by newly minted Common Council President Helen Hudson, as she assumes the position that places her next in the line of mayoral succession, if Ben Walsh doesn’t complete his term, as per the Charter of the City of Syracuse.

The Syracuse Common Council is the legislative body of the city of Syracuse. As leader of that body Hudson assumes a role that can be described as a, municipal government combo platter.  Imagine the role of President of the Syracuse Common Council with tasks that locally, combines duties of the Vice President of the United States, and the responsibilities of a legislative leader. She’ll work with the Council and Mayor to set the legislative agenda, as President of the body, voting only in case of a tie.

Peoples AME Zion Church Praise Team

The faith community was represented in prayer by Pastor Eure and stellar performances by People’s A.M.E. Zion Praise Team. Their rendition of I Feel the Presence of the Lord silenced the chamber, absent the melodic vocals of the Praise Team.

Helen Hudson’s speech was inspirational and cautious as she talked about the path which led to this historic moment and the difficult job we have as a city moving forward.

“Everyone one in this room has played a part in me being here today” as Hudson mentioned those who came to support her at the swearing in ceremony. Her message to newly elected members of the council was, “welcome to your adventure”.

Helen Hudson Syracuse Common Council President

Hudson continues, “We have the experience, we have the wisdom, but the young people, they’re so fresh and they’re so real and they have ideas innovations and thoughts. And we have to let them come in with it. But young people got to understand, you can’t discount wisdom and experience, they all work together.

And I think that everybody in this room, you’re here for one reason, and that’s because you love this city, I love this city too. In order for us to right this ship, it’s going to take everybody in this room. With the sails going up, now we’ve got to sail. With everything blowing in the wind and moving along, so that we can have happy sailing and we can all land in a safe spot to dock our boats.

She then pivots to the future,” We have a year ahead of us. I hope everyone in this room is ready to work together, because this is not about one person, or one group of people. This is about the 144,000 people that live in the city of Syracuse, and I’m going to work to the best of my ability.”

Audience gives new Council President standing ovation after heartfelt speech.

Closing remarks by Timothy Jennings Bey were sincere and appropriate as he described Hudson’s work with others, another theme that was conveyed throughout the early evening.  Frank Lazarski and other participants, shared stores of Hudson’s work with labor unions, or being at local hospitals in the darkness of night offering support and counsel, to those who’re suffering from the aftermath of gun violence.

Character has been described as, “What someone will do, when no one’s looking”. Helen Hudson’s work has been like an iceberg, you only see what’s above the waterline. But what lies beneath is experience and strength, honed in the furnace of life, transforming incoming Common Council President Helen Hudson into a crusader, serving in public office for those who previously were unrepresented.