Yversha Roman believes it is time to rebuild, restructure and re-energize Monroe County. Roman was elected president of the Legislature last night, bringing a fractious process to an end.
“I am honored to take that charge as we move Monroe County forward, working alongside each legislator, the county executive, and the community at large,” Roman said.
A lifelong Rochesterian, Roman has been a county lawmaker for three terms. She previously served as the Democratic Caucus minority leader for three years.
She becomes the first Latina to serve as president of the Legislature.
“I want to thank my colleagues for not only realizing this could be a momentous moment for our community to ensure we continue the legacy of diversifying the seat of the president of the Legislature,” Roman said. “But also to have seen in me the ability to lead, be trusted and move Monroe County forward.”
Two areas Roman views as key needs for Monroe County are expanding language accessibility and housing. She sees 2024 as a year of immense potential now that Democratic lawmakers have a 16-13 majority in the Legislature and a fellow Democrat as county executive.
The previous Legislature also had a majority of seats (15 to 14) held by Democrats. However, former president Sabrina LaMar, a member of the now-defunct splinter Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, was elected with Republican votes and named Republican legislator Steve Brew as majority leader.
The 2024 election in the Legislature also was marked by party infighting. Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons, with support from fellow Democrat Rachel Barnhart, vied with Roman for the presidency. Prior to the election, the two legislators released a proposal in negotiation for their votes, which their fellow Democrats ultimately rejected.
On Tuesday, Vazquez-Simmons and Barnhart held to their positions. On the first attempt, Vazquez-Simmons received their two votes, and then they abstained on the second attempt, still denying Democrats the necessary 15 votes needed to elect a president.
Throughout the process, Republicans remained united as a bloc in voting for their own candidate, Legislator Jackie Smith. They also did not hesitate to sharply criticize the Democrats.
“This is an embarrassment to county government, it’s an embarrassment to every person in this Legislature and the administration that we can’t get this figured out,” Republican Legislator Sean McCabe said of the failed votes. “Come on, this is absolutely a waste of time that we’re doing this.”
Following the second failed attempt, the Legislature took a recess for nearly two and a half hours. Upon returning, lawmakers ultimately voted to reconvene on Wednesday, where another failed vote and 15-minute recess were required before the fourth election attempt was successful with unanimous Democratic support.
“Thank you to all of our colleagues for their commitment to a true Democratic majority,” said Vazquez-Simmons. “We worked through many issues to arrive at a place that sets us up for success for the next four years.”
In a statement issued after Wednesday’s meeting, Barnhart said she and Vazquez-Simmons would continue to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, with Vazquez-Simmons also serving on the Public Safety Committee and Barnhart serving as chairperson of the Agenda Charter Committee along with being a part of the Charter Review Commission. Except for the Public Safety Committee seat, these positions were part of their negotiating proposal.
Barnhart said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the hardball tactics were due to a plan by Democratic members to create a power-sharing deal with some Republican members that would leave her off any committees. She says her commitment to Roman was solidified on Tuesday.
“I thank each of the County Legislators who put aside personal agendas, past performance, and even a bit of pride for the betterment of our community, party, and constituency,” Roman said in her acceptance speech.
“To my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I look forward to continuing to work alongside you. I will choose to have an open door, mind, and heart so that we can collaborate,” she continued. “Serving as president of the Legislature will take the continued support of everyone in this room. I cannot and will not be able to do this alone.”
Before concluding the meeting, Roman appointed Vazquez-Simmons as vice president and Legislator Michael Yudelson as majority leader. David Grant was also unanimously re-elected as clerk.
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].