Haverhill Mayor Celebrates Gov. Baker’s Expected Signing of Mostly Ward-Based Elections Law

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Gov. Charlie Baker shake hands in 2019 at UTEC in Haverhill. (WHAV News file photograph.)

(This story has been updated to include a comment from Rep. Andy X. Vargas.)

While there was never any doubt Gov. Charlie Baker would sign Haverhill’s home rule election law, Haverhill’s mayor is celebrating.

Baker signed the law Friday, after, as only WHAV has reported, the city’s petition for mostly ward-based elections moved this past spring and summer through legislative readings, separate approvals by the House and Senate and trek to Baker’s desk.

“I have long felt that the best way to deliver good neighborhood constituent service is by having neighborhood councilors” Fiorentini said in a prepared statement Monday. “Neighborhood councilors know which streets need to be paved, they know the problems in the neighborhoods and they will advocate for their neighborhoods. Ward representation is also a better means of having a City Council that reflects the broad diversity of the city.”

The bill was sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Diana DiZoglio and House by Rep. Andy X. Vargas.

The bill was sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Diana DiZoglio and House by Rep. Andy X. Vargas.

“This is a historic day for Haverhill. In time, the new local election system will produce a municipal government that is more reflective of all of Haverhill and will strengthen our neighborhoods. It won’t happen overnight, and it will take some time for folks to get acclimated, but Haverhill will now be in compliance with civil rights law—something we should all be proud of,” said Vargas.

The legislation calls for the City Council to expand to 11 members with seven city councilors elected by ward with four others elected at-large. The school Committee will have seven ward members, three citywide representatives and the mayor as tiebreaker.

It also reduces School Committee terms from four to two years. Those elected to four-year terms last November, however, are permitted to complete their terms of office.

Haverhill residents voted by a 2-1 margin in favor of ward representation in a non-binding referendum on last November’s ballot.

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