Central Falls Mayor appoints city’s first gay, previously undocumented municipal court judge

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WLNE) – Central Falls is welcoming new leadership. Mayor Maria Rivera, the city’s first women Mayor and Rhode Island’s first Latina Mayor, was sworn into office.

“It is a big deal,” Mayor Rivera said. “It’s taken way too long for a woman to be in this position, for a Latina to be in this position and I’m hoping with everything I do I continue opening doors for the young girls looking at me right now.”

Along with Mayor Rivera, came several changes to City Departments and commissions. Her focus on diversity led her to pick a new Chief of Police. Sergeant Anthony Roberson took the title as the only black Police Chief among municipal chiefs in Rhode Island. He’ll replace Chief Barzyknowski, a change met with backlash from the police union.

“It’s really important for me that who works in this community, reflects this community and understands the needs of the community,” Mayor Rivera said. “We are a community that when the new census numbers come out were probably over 70% diverse.”

Rivera also appointed Municipal Court Judge Joseph Molina Flynn. Judge Flynn is the first gay and previously undocumented immigrant to sit on the city’s municipal court bench.

“Being gay, Latino, from Columbia, undocumented, a high school dropout, all these things are things that I was ashamed of and that I was stigmatized for until I was sort of able to own my truth,” Judge Flynn said.

Flynn emigrated from Colombia at just 9-years-old, fleeing violence in his hometown. He spent 15 years undocumented before gaining citizenship and graduating law school.

“I just hope that I can give other people a sense of hope and maybe something to aspire to, even if it’s not being a lawyer or a judge, but just to tell them, whether it’s a gay boy or another undocumented person that they too can dream and set out to accomplish their dreams,” Flynn said.

Mayor Rivera says while there are several things on list that she wants to change, her first focus is on COVID and getting the community the resources they need like access to testing and vaccines. So far, she says they’ve vaccinated over 1,000 people in the City of Central Falls.

Categories: News, Pawtucket, Politics, Rhode Island