BOSTON (SHNS)–Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s status as labor secretary nominee for the forthcoming Biden administration means the state’s largest city will likely have a new mayor a year from now, and it’s not the only one.
While Walsh’s expected departure for the national stage creates the most high-profile opening, a handful of other mayors have also announced plans to move on instead of running for re-election this year, setting up open contests for their seats.
Like Walsh, former Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera was set to serve until 2022 but was tapped for a new job. Rivera, first elected in 2013, stepped down on Jan. 8 to become the CEO of MassDevelopment.
Kendrys Vasquez, who had been president of the Lawrence City Council, is now leading the city as its acting mayor, and a home-rule petition Gov. Charlie Baker signed on Jan. 7 waived the requirement that the city hold a special election to fill Rivera’s term before voters pick a new, full-term mayor in November. Boston city councilors are mulling the possibility of pursuing similar legislation.
Also north of Boston, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday told the Newburyport Daily News on Jan. 6 that her third term would be her last, saying the timing felt right after accomplishing many of her desired projects.
Two western Massachusetts mayors — Northampton’s David Narkewicz and Holyoke’s Alex Morse — said the time has come for someone new to move into the role, after a decade each in office.
“When I was first elected, I expressed the desire to serve for ten years at most â€“ enough time, I thought, to get some key goals across the finish line, and to secure a legacy we could be proud of,” Morse, who challenged U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in last September’s Democratic primary, said in a Dec. 1 statement. “I firmly believe that our democracy works best when we create space for more voices and perspectives to influence the public sphere.”
Narkewicz said that after more than 20 years in elected and appointed municipal posts, he now wants to “step back and let other community members bring their ideas and energy forward to address the important issues and challenges facing our city.”
City halls often hold allure for state lawmakers eyeing a new job, presenting an opportunity to stay in politics and public service but with a shorter commute and oftentimes a larger paycheck.
Nine former state lawmakers currently serve as mayors, including Weymouth’s Bob Hedlund and Melrose’s Paul Brodeur, both of whom are next up for election in 2023.
Seven legislators-turned-mayors are up for re-election this year: Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton and Don Humason of Westfield, Republicans who resigned their respective House and Senate seats last term after successful mayoral campaigns; former Sen. Thomas McGee, Lynn’s mayor since 2018; Fitchburg’s Stephen DiNatale, a House lawmaker from 2007-2016; Mike Cahill of Beverly, who served in the House from 1993 until an unsuccesful 2002 run for treasurer; and Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, a former representative who told The Sun Chronicle last month he’d “probably” seek a third term.
Walsh is also a former House lawmaker, and current House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz announced last week that he would not be among those vying to succeed Walsh as Boston’s mayor.
Pre-established campaign accounts and name recognition can give lawmakers an edge in a mayoral bid, and odd-year municipal elections mean they can jump into a local race without putting their seats on the line.
The road between the State House and the mayor’s office also, at times, travels the other way: Rep. John Barrett spent 26 years as mayor of North Adams, leaving office in 2009 and then winning a special House election in 2017. When Eileen Donoghue left Beacon Hill in 2018 to become Lowell’s city manager, it was a recent mayor — Ed Kennedy, whose fellow city councilors picked him for the post for the 2016-2017 term — who succeeded her in the Senate.
Most of the cities with mayors will hold an election this fall. According to a Massachusetts Municipal Association list, elections are also set for Nov. 2 in Agawam, Amesbury, Brockton, Chicopee, Easthampton, Everett, Fall River, Framingham, Gardner, Gloucester, Haverhill, Leominster, Marlborough, Medford, Methuen, Newton, North Adams, Peabody, Salem, Somerville, West Springfield, Woburn and Worcester.