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Local Mayors Discuss Achievements and Challenges

Five mayors of diverse Massachusetts cities visited the Boston College Law School campus for a February panel meant to encourage careers in public office. In a wide-ranging discussion, the mayors discussed their personal paths and the many issues they face on a daily basis. While admitting that the chief executive official in a municipality can be a taxing job, they all highlighted the importance of civic duty and encouraged attendees to become involved in the political life of their hometowns.

The panel, sponsored by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at Boston College Law School, included Boston College graduates Joseph Curtatone ’90 of Somerville and Setti Warren ’93 of Newton, as well as Dan Rivera of Lawrence and Jon Mitchell, mayor of New Bedford. Serving as moderator was Lisa Wong, former mayor of Fitchburg.

Though the mayors agreed that challenges differ with the different communities they govern, they all agreed that the office of mayor has grown in reputation and importance in recent years, with relative Federal gridlock necessitating a more active and hands-on role from municipal leaders. New Bedford’s Mitchell, in guiding the center of the South Shore metropolitan community, described the difficulty of drawing state attention on municipalities in a Commonwealth so centered on Boston and its surrounding cities.

Other issues the mayors encountered are universal, such as the necessity for them to look beyond the everyday maintenance and survival of their cities and have a vision for the economic mobility and cultural vibrancy of their communities years in the future. The challenges of balancing increasing prosperity and housing prices with affordability and ease of transportation, among others, were discussed at length.

All stressed the importance of being involved in ones’ community, whether through volunteer-work or through civic office, and revealed a commitment to public service in their communities before their mayoral administrations. They emphasized the importance of remaining in close contact with their communities and the individuals they served. “Everybody should run for office,” said Rivera. “We get the government we deserve.”

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