Worcester officials and residents are celebrating the hiring of Eric Batista as the city’s first Latino city manager. Born in Puerto Rico before moving to Worcester as a child, Batista takes over the position after holding it on an interim basis for much of last year.
During a ceremony at City Hall Friday welcoming Batista as the new permanent city manager, residents waved small Puerto Rican flags and drummers beat Latin rhythms. Attendees noted that nearly a quarter of Worcester’s population is Latino or Hispanic and said Batista’s background and knowledge of the city made him the right person for the position.
“He deserved it and he has shown he can do the job,” said Ruth Rodriguez Fay, who’s of Dominican Republic descent. “He [represents] our community.”
Batista has worked for Worcester for over a decade, rising up the ranks from project manager and chief of operations and management to assistant city manager. At age 40, he’s also Worcester's youngest city manager.
Under Worcester’s form of government, the city manager position carries the political weight and responsibilities of mayors in cities like Boston and Providence. During the welcome ceremony, Batista said his priorities will include addressing Worcester’s shortage of affordable housing and responding to complaints of a racially toxic workplace at City Hall.
“As a good leader, I must listen and understand and empathize with all members of our community including those vulnerable and marginalized to bring a balanced, equitable and solutions-based approach,” he said.
Worcester’s City Council hired Batista for the permanent position in November before finalizing a contract with him last month. Batista first became acting city manager after the previous manager, Edward Augustus, stepped down in May 2022. Worcester city councilors originally planned to hold a nationwide search to fill the permanent position, but then scrapped that idea and gave Batista the job.
Mayor Joe Petty was one of the first proponents of calling off the search and hiring Batista. At the welcome celebration Friday, Petty said he’s already impressed with Batista’s work since starting the permanent position last month.
“I grade him an ‘A.’ Seriously. I’m not just saying that,” Petty said. “He knows the issues.”