Barrett Becomes First to Formally Declare Run for Haverhill Mayor; Fiorentini to Confirm Retirement

Then-Haverhill City Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Vice President Colin F. LePage during inaugural exercises in 2020. (WHAV News file photograph.)

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Haverhill City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett became a candidate for mayor of the city Thursday and immediately picked up a critical endorsement.

Barrett filed a “change of purpose” form with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance late Thursday morning, indicating in essence she seeks to move from the second floor of City Hall to the corner office downstairs. Mayor James J. Fiorentini is expected to announce Saturday morning to confirm he is not seeking re-election after serving 20 years as the city’s chief executive. Barrett told WHAV she previously notified the mayor of her plans.

“The mayor is aware. I have been upfront and truthful with him as to my intentions. It will not be a surprise. We’ve had many conversations,” she said. Barrett declined to characterize the mayor’s reaction.

Barrett, who would become the city’s first woman to be elected mayor, describes herself as a “third-generation Hillie.” She worked in what became the 100-year-old family business, Barrett’s Menswear, on Merrimack Street. Two to three years before the business closed, she carved out a portion for her Barrett’s Specialty Foods. The popular lunch venue went on to operate 22 years until closing in 2018.

She said she looks forward to having a “transparent and cooperative administration that builds on the progress of the last administration.”

State Rep. Andy X. Vargas lent his support to Barrett. “Melinda Barrett is one of the hardest working public servants I know. She loves this city and has demonstrated her commitment to the community. Her small business and City Council experience, combined with her deep roots in our city, uniquely qualify her to build a collaborative administration for the benefit of all our residents. Haverhill will thrive under a Mayor Melinda—the first woman to become mayor of Haverhill. I’m solidly with her,” he said.

Vargas took time to thank Fiorentini for his service, saying “We’ve had our differences at times, but one thing is clear, the city is in much better shape than when he came to the office and he leaves a legacy of making Haverhill a greater place for generations to come.”

At the end of last month, Barrett had nearly $7,000 in her campaign account, according to records on file with the state.

Barrett was first elected to the Haverhill City Council in 2013 and became the second highest City Council vote-getter during the 2015 election and became the first woman to serve as City Council president in 2020.

Her announcement triggered a polling of other potential candidates. Former City Councilor Colin F. LePage, who ran for mayor two years ago, said he will consider running again for the mayor’s post. “As I have in the past, I would be honored for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Haverhill. I look forward to campaigning for elected office this year,” he told WHAV. LePage has about $4,000 in his campaign account.

School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. said “I’m strongly considering it and will make a decision in the next few weeks.”

When asked, School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti didn’t say yes or no to a run. Instead, he noted, “It’s a very important mayoral election. The next mayor is going on have to have in-depth knowledge not only of the city budget, but state and federal revenue sources so we can invest in education, public safety and our infrastructure without putting all of the pressure our taxpayers. I believe it can be done if we find the right person.”

Another name frequently mentioned is former School Committee member and current City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua. Bevilacqua said only that “I’m asked to run every single day and wherever I go in the city.” He added, “I have no comment because I have not been focusing on my future, but focusing on the work the people elected me to do.”

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