House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Haverhill Rep. Brian S. Dempsey at a ceremony dedicating “The Representative Brian S. Dempsey Boardwalk.” (WHAV News photograph.)
A small part of Haverhill’s recent successes can be traced back 26 years ago to two freshman legislators sharing the same last initial.
As two of 46 newly elected legislators in 1990, Haverhill Rep. Brian S. Dempsey and now House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo became close friends.
“And I had the good fortune of being assigned alphabetically next to Bob DeLeo, and we met and instantly hit it off,” said Dempsey, who was introduced by the speaker who came to Haverhill Friday afternoon for the dedication of “The Representative Brian S. Dempsey Boardwalk.” It was named in honor of Dempsey at the suggestion of Mayor James J. Fiorentini with the unanimous support of Haverhill city councilors Tuesday. A newly completed section of the boardwalk connects Harbor Place with an existing portion behind Haverhill Bank. It will eventually stretch between the Basiliere and Comeau Bridges.
“I feel like I’m either in a dream or I’m at my own funeral. I hope it’s a dream,” Dempsey joked as he addressed the crowd gathered on the top floor of the new Harbor Place.
DeLeo said Dempsey spelled out his dream of a reborn Haverhill during a tour the two took years ago when the situation looked nearly hopeless.
“Well, he took me around and he took me first of all to a vacant parking lot. And he just showed me vacant buildings, dilapidated buildings and what not. I said, ‘he’s my buddy, but he has a lot of vision here if he’s going to turn this around.’”
For his part, Dempsey said the speaker’s faith in him has helped him deliver for Haverhill.
“He has put me, he has put the City of Haverhill, in a tremendous position to capitalize on the great position of being chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.”
Methuen City Councilor and former state Sen. James P. Jajuga served as master of ceremonies. Other speakers included Fiorentini, UMass President Marty Meehan, UMass-Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and Sally Cerasuolo O’Rorke, whom Dempsey thanked for her dream of replacing the former F.W. Woolworth department store with Harbor Place. Meehan said Dempsey lobbied him when he was UMass Lowell chancellor to bring the university to Haverhill. It will now occupy two floors of the Harbor Place commercial building.