Former Mount Vernon mayor, Jamaica-born, Ronald A. Blackwood is dead. He was 90 years old.
Mayor Blackwood died in Florida where he retired after leaving the Westchester county city where he served for 11 years as mayor. He was buried on Saturday, February 25, 2017.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on Thursday, March 2, in Mount Vernon at noon.
Mayor Blackwood was the first black to be elected mayor in the entire state of New York.
As news of the former mayor’s death spread tributes poured in.
Jamaica’s Consul General to New York, Trudy Deans, said that the passing of Mayor Blackwood leaves a void in the Mount Vernon family, the Jamaican community and the entire immigrant communities.
“Mayor Blackwood showed through his dedication to service and his commitment to bettering the lives of the residents of Mount Vernon what can be achieved by immigrants who migrate to the United States,” she said.
Deans said that Blackwood was a pioneer and an innovative thinker who found creative ways to improve the lives of Mount Vernon residents through affordable housing, economic development and better educational opportunities.
“Mayor Blackwood’s life of service should serve as an inspiration to other immigrants. His life said you can achieve your goals while striving to improve conditions for your fellowmen,” she noted.
The current Mayor of Mount Vernon, Richard Thomas said Mayor Blackwood served the city of Mount Vernon with “distinction and honour.”
“He broke barriers and built bridges to the future showing how other immigrants can truly live the American dream,” Mayor Thomas said of Blackwood.
He described the late former mayor as a leader, not a politician. He was a man who worked with grace and grit Thomas said of Mayor Blackwood, pointing out that he promoted job opportunities, affordable housing and crime fighting measures.
Former Mayor of Spring Valley in Rockland County, Jamaican-born Allan Thompson, described Blackwood as a trail blazer.
“He set the pace for a lot of us who thought that public service was a special calling” said Mayor Thompson who worked closely with Blackwood in the New York Association of Mayors.
Thompson said that it was Mayor Blackwood who encouraged him to enter politics and run for the post of Mayor in Spring Valley.
New York State Supreme Court Judge, Jamaican-born Sam Walker, who was first appointed an Associate City Court Judge in Mount Vernon by Mayor Blackwood in 1988, said that Mayor Blackwood made “all of us proud.”
“Even today you can see his vision being realized throughout the city. He never forgot his Jamaican roots by providing opportunities for so many of us in his administration,” said Judge Walker.
The Judge said Mayor Blackwood had great vision for the city of Mount Vernon and it was an honour to work with him.
Walker noted that his judicial career was launched because of his appointment to the Mount Vernon courts by Mayor Blackwood.
Former Mount Vernon police detective, Marie Bell-Mack, who became the first Jamaican-born woman to enter that city’s police department under Mayor Blackwood, described him as a true leader.
She pointed out that the former mayor encouraged every member of the city’s police department to serve the community by example.
“As a Jamaican he represented the Mount Vernon diverse immigrant community well,” she opined.
Former City Council member, Una Clarke noted that Mayor Blackwood made a significant difference through his commitment to public service.
“I was grateful to have met him as his advice helped during my years as a New York City Council member,” she said.
Long time Mount Vernon resident, Sephon Mair, said Mayor Blackwood was a “common man of uncommon proportion who has left a lasting legacy in the City of Mount Vernon and the entire immigrant community.”
Born in Kingston, Blackwood migrated to the United States at the age of 23 and settled in Mount Vernon. After obtaining a degree in management from Iona College, he entered public service in 1967, first as an elected member of the Westchester Board of Supervisors. He was later elected to the Mount Vernon City council where he served for 15 years, the last 4 as Council President.
In 1976 he became acting mayor following the death of the then incumbent mayor.
After being deprived of the nomination to run for mayor on the Republican Party ticket, Blackwood switched parties becoming a member of the Democratic Party. In 1984 he secured the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for mayor.
Blackwood won the election and served for 11 years after winning re-election on three occasions. He did not seek a 4th term choosing instead to retire.
During his tenure as Mayor, Blackwood brought millions of dollars to the City through federal, state and private investments in affordable housing as well as building the Sandford Boulevard retail complex. The city also built a new police/court complex during his administration, which is named for him.
His commitment to education lives on through the Ronald and Ann Blackwood Scholarship programme which continues to provide financial support to Mount Vernon High School graduates.
As the Consul General said “He was truly a man of the people.”
Congresswoman Clarke launches attack on Trump...A4