Baker Swears in Fiorentini to 10th Term, Says Council and Mayor Differences Good for the City

Gov. Charlie Baker gives remarks at City Hall auditorium before swearing in Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (Mike Jarvis photograph for WHAV News.)

(More photographs below.)

With Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker administering the oath of office, James J. Fiorentini extended his tenure as mayor of Haverhill for an unprecedented 10th term.

Baker received cheers after he jokingly expressed astonishment at Fiorentini’s nearly 20-year-run as the city’s chief executive.

“Twenty years? Come on! The Baker family thought eight was a long run,” he said.

Because of continued COVID-19 concerns, the mayor requested residents not attend the ceremonies at Haverhill City Hall on Monday. As a public service, WHAV radio carried the abbreviated swearing in ceremonies live.

After being sworn in, the mayor acknowledged state representatives in attendance; thanked a predecessor, former-Mayor James A. Rurak, for his friendship and mentorship; and gave special recognition to new Public Health Director Mary Connolly and her team. Proclaiming “Now is Haverhill’s Time,” the mayor outlined plans for his next term.

“Job one is to get us through this pandemic, and I pledge to you today, we will get through it. We must be certain that our progress is shared by all. The dream of homeownership must extend to every area in our city. We are blessed to have immigrants from all over the world. We must celebrate the diversity. I pledge to you to wake up every day and give it my all,” he said.

Nine city councilors were sworn in, including three newcomers, Melissa J. Lewandowski, Catherine P. Rogers and former School Committee member Shaun P. Toohey. Members elected top vote-getter Timothy J. Jordan as their new president and next highest vote-getter John A. Michitson, a former president, as vice president.

Jordan thanked residents for putting their trust in him and expressed his gratitude to physicians, nurses, teachers, police, fire and emergency personnel and grocery store clerks for their work on the front lines over the past two years. He shared his vision for Haverhill over the next two years including the best use of $38.3 million of American Rescue Plan Act money.

“I look forward to working with my fellow councilors, the mayor and our department heads to deploy these funds as effectively as possible. I’m hopeful that 2022 will finally be the year that Vice President Michitson’s dream of a fiber optic network to every home and business in Haverhill becomes a reality. Forty percent of our city roads are in poor condition. We owe it to our residents to provide them with better services than they have been receiving,” he said.

Jordan also called on residents to get boosters shots and to “trust the science.” The new president noted his policy differences with the mayor, saying he supported former Councilor Colin F. LePage’s bid for the corner office. He said, however, he will seek compromise even as he opposes new development until city departments are adequately staffed to respond.

Baker said push back between the mayor and Council president is ultimately a good thing for the city. “I certainly believe that I’m a lot better and a lot smarter as a person, as a politician, as a policy maker, because I’ve learned a lot from people I don’t always a agree with over the course of my 65 years on this Earth,” he said.

The new president will have the opportunity bang the gavel tonight at the first City Council meeting of the new year.

The ceremonies also included the swearing in of three incumbent School Committee members. Paul A. Magliocchetti, Richard J. Rosa and Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello.

Speeches were markedly shorter than in previous years and there was no reception because of precautions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is the full version of Fiorentini’s address:


Thank you everyone for coming and for all who are tuning in remotely, thank you.  I welcome my family, and Governor, thank you for attending and for swearing me in.  Congratulations to the elected members of our city council and school committee and a special congratulations and welcome to the three new members of our city council, Melissa Lewandowski, Catherine Rogers, and Shaun Toohey.

Thank you to the elected officials and former elected officials who have joined us there this morning— State Representatives Linda Dean Campbell, Andres Vargas, and Christina Minicucci.  Thank you to former Mayor Jim Rurak for attending.  Because of your leadership, we have a hospital in Haverhill today, thank you.

And most importantly, welcome and thank you to my fellow citizens of Haverhill.  It has been an incredible honor of representing you for what will be twenty years. I pledge to you to wake up every day and give it my all, with one mission: to make this city even better for all our citizens.

Governor Baker, under your leadership, Massachusetts is a leader in the response to covid 19.  91% of Massachusetts residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, making us number one in the nation.

Governor Baker, that is a testament to your leadership and to the leadership of the team you have assembled. I also want to say on a personal level what a pleasure it has been working with you, with the Lt. Governor and with your administration.  Under your leadership and under the partnership that you have initiated with cities and towns, our city and so many cities have flourished, and we appreciate very much what you have done.


When I first addressed you 18 years ago, Haverhill had great potential.  But we also had great immediate problems that had to be met before we could meet that potential.  We handled those problems—the Hale Debt, high school accreditation and a downtown that needed revitalization.  We handled them because of all of you—a great city work force, and a great population and business community that stayed with the city and continued your investment and your hope.

By working together, we revitalized downtown and brought in $250 million in new investment.  We added new board walks, new rail trails, a new parking garage and hundreds of millions of dollars in new private investment.

With a united team we were able to keep our high school accredited and build a new Hunking School.  And with a great team and great teamwork, we overcame much of the largest municipal debt in the history of Massachusetts and today have the highest bond rating in our history.

Today we again have great potential, but we again have immediate problems that must be met.

Tackling Covid

The immediate problem that faces us is the worst pandemic in a century.  We have had an incredible team of people working night and day to keep us safe. I want to recognize some of them today, our new Public Health Director Mary Connolly and two members of her team, Lizzie Burns-Allshouse and Diane Itaska, —welcome and thank you.  Job 1 for us is to get us through this pandemic.  We will have increased vaccination clinics and increased testing, thanks to the resources made available to us by the state and by this Governor.  We will get through this.

To those of you out there who are still not vaccinated, there are some new statistics out this morning.  If you are fully vaccinated and have the booster shot, your chances of getting covid are 31 times lower than if you are not vaccinated.

This is Haverhill’s Moment

And when we get through this, this is Haverhill’s timeThis is Haverhill’s moment. 

For years, those of us who lived in Haverhill heard about the successes of other cities.  We heard about Faneuil Hall in Boston.  We heard about the boardwalk in Newburyport.  We heard about the Federal dollars brought to Lowell.  We looked with envy and wondered, when is it our time?

The answer is now.  This is Haverhill’s time.  We have millions of Federal dollars coming to our city to help us to modernize our water and waste-water infrastructure and extend sewer services to some areas which have never had them.  If the state allows the use some of the infrastructure money for increased chapter 90 funding, this year we can modernize our roads and small bridges, replace sidewalks that have not been replaced in decades, and then we can build new ones.

And this year, another part of the Hale debt which has hobbled us for two decades will be paid off.  With that money we can build a new or renovated school at Consentino hopefully without holding it up by asking the public to pay more taxes with a debt exclusion.  This new Consentino School will add to the high school we removed and new Hunking School we built and will put us one step closer to our goal of modern new facilities for every child in the city.

And downtown, if all goes well, we will have the greatest project in our history; $160 million in new investment downtown that will bring hundreds of new jobs, new restaurants, new places to live and millions of dollars in new tax revenues to allow us to further improve our city.  This new project will reverse some of the mistakes of urban renewal and undue some of the well intentioned errors made in the past.  This is our moment, and we cannot allow it to slop through our fingers.

This is Haverhill’s time. 

Challenges Ahead

But with this great opportunity, comes great challenges.  The Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters, the character for danger and the character for opportunity.  This is our opportunity but with opportunity comes danger and challenges.

Our first challenge is to make certain that this really happens.

We must not be paralyzed from acting by those who, as the French philosopher Voltaire said, would have the perfect be the enemy of the good.  We cannot be stopped by those who are determined to oppose every change.  We must recall the words of John F. Kennedy:

“Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” 

This is our future, and we must not miss it.

Two generations ago, Haverhill lost Western Electric when it left downtown.  That loss reverberated for decades. If we miss this moment, if we allow it to fall through our hands, that fall will be heard for decades to come.

We Must make certain that our progress is shared by all

As we move forward as a city, as we seize this moment, Haverhill’s moment, we have other challenges.  Not everyone will be able to afford to eat in the restaurants that are being built or live in the new housing coming online.  Our challenge is to create that rising tide that lifts all boats.  Part of that is to adopt a housing inclusionary policy that makes certain that there are always affordable units in the city.

And part of our policy must be as simple and as old as the term “supply and demand.”

Seventy years ago, when we lived in a four-family house with no back yard, my parents, both children of immigrants, had a dream that someday their children would live in their own house with their own backyard.  I lived that dream.  We moved to what only a decade before had been a new subdivision.  Haverhill’s school population was growing with what would late be called baby boomers,  the children of returning World War 2 veterans.  The city leaders back then were foresighted and built new and modern schools in every quadrant of the city, the Nettle and the Hunking, both of which I attended and the Whittier and the Consentino.  I lived that dream, the American dream.  Because of the opportunities I had I was able to get a top-flight education so that today, this grandson of immigrants is able to stand before you as the longest serving mayor in our history.  Thank you for that incredible opportunity.

My parents dream, the American dream, is a dream that must never die.  That dream must live on in every neighborhood and every section of the city.  We must not rest until every family has the advantages that I had, the ability to live in the neighborhood of our choice and receive and excellent top ranked education.  To make that dream a reality, we must build upon the master plan we instituted last year, Vision Haverhill 2035, which allows for growth and housing in every section of the city.  While always balancing growth with our need to preserve the beauty of Haverhill, we must do away with outdated and restrictive zoning laws, and make certain that the American dream can live in every neighborhood and in every section of our city.  And to make that dream a reality for this new generation, we must make certain that the Consentino school project becomes a reality and is only the latest step in our journey to make certain that every child in every neighborhood attends a new and modern school.

And to make this Haverhill’s time, we must celebrate our greatest strength, our people, and our diversity.  Today we are blessed to have immigrants from all over the world coming here to live and to work.  In the audience today are immigrants from the Dominican Republic and from Africa.  To those who have made Haverhill their new home bienvenito, or as my immigrant grandparents said in a slightly different dialect of Latin, benvenuto, welcome, this city is your city, esta ciudad es su ciudad, we welcome you and we are pleased you have chosen this great city to live in and work in.

Now it is our task to make certain that our immigrant population are included in every aspect of city life and city planning.

We have recognized our diversity by tripling the number of Latinos in city hall, and by adding bi-lingual personnel to nearly every department and every board in the city.  That is only a start, there is more to do.  That more must start with fulfilling the dream of having ward-based representation.  The time is now.

We can make this Haverhill’s Time

Eighteen years ago, I told you that we had challenges ahead, but I promised you that we could meet those challenges.  Today, I tell you the same—there are challenges ahead but if we stay united we can meet those challenges and make this Haverhill’s moment.  This is Haverhill’s time.

Thank you for listening and thank you for being here.

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