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Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua ushers in new era for local government. By Brian McGonigle. Photograph by Robert Boyd.

On January 2, state representative William Lantigua was sworn in as mayor of Lawrence and became the city’s-as well as the state’s-first Latino mayor. Lantigua’s victory in November marked a milestone for the Massachusetts Latino community as well as a big step in the emergence of Latinos in the political arena.

“It’s good being the first Hispanic, but our legacy will be to be remembered as the best,” Lantigua shouted to a massive crowd of supporters at City Hall on election night.

Lantigua plans to focus on the city’s finances, particularly the city’s budget crisis. In December, when struggling to close an estimated $9.5 million deficit gap in the city’s $80 million 2010 fiscal budget-two-thirds of which is paid by the state-Lantigua met with Governor Deval Patrick to discuss solutions for getting a handle on Lawrence’s finances. But the mayor-elect refused to offer specifics at a press conference afterwards. So, the big question remains: can Lantigua turn around the city of Lawrence? That’s a big responsibility, especially for the man who also claims he wants to hold onto his Beacon Hill post as a state representative at least through the rest of his legislative term-as well as not ruling out running for another term.

Balancing the two jobs will certainly be a challenge for Lantigua, but in a December interview with the Associated Press, he admitted he will “try to avoid a heart attack.”