Podcast: Former Fiorentini Rivals Turn His Refusal to Seek Re-Election Into Roast, of Sorts

Former Haverhill Mayor James A. Rurak. (WHAV News photograph.)

Part 2 of 2

On Monday, WHAV reported on Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s decision not to seek re-election and his overview of the past 20 years. This report focuses on the reaction of former mayors, current elected officials and others reflecting on the mayor’s legacy.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s remarks last weekend that he will not seek another term came as little surprise to those that attended his breakfast, but did bring out an impromptu and good-natured roast by those who have worked for, or competed against, the man.

Former Mayor James A. Rurak observed the presence of many of Fiorentini’s past political rivals, including himself, former Mayor William H. Ryan and retired Sen. James P. Jajuga.

“First time we competed, I beat him. That was when we were about 18, 19 years old in an oratorial contest that was held by the Elks. He got so mad, he had to beat me in two citywide elections,” he told the laughing crowd.

Rurak took a more serious note on what he believes brought Fiorentini success, but still delivered a humorous conclusion.

“The Hale (Hospital) has been an enormous drag on—let’s call it the ship of state. It had an enormous hole in the bottom. We plugged the hole by selling it, but we took on an enormous cargo—the Hale debt, the retirement funds, all of the things that the city had been obligated to do for very many years. Had not that ship been steered correctly; the cargo could have tipped one way or another at any given time. And, you steered it correctly. And, how did you do that? Well, fiscal management, tight fiscal management. Mr. Stingy,” he said to the crowd’s roar.

State Sen. Barry R. Finegold also picked up on Fiorentini’s past rivals in the room, calling the state senate contest between the mayor and Jajuga in 1994, a “holy war.” He went on to quote late President John F. Kennedy on why the city flourished on the mayor’s watch.

“Things don’t happen. They are made to happen. I can tell you that as someone that has been coming to the city a very, very long time—as we all know, my dad taught at Northern Essex so this is where we’d come a lot—this place is amazing for what he has done,” Finegold said.

Former Haverhill Mayor William H. Ryan. (WHAV News photograph.)

Former Mayor Ryan counted the time he sparred with Fiorentini on the City Council, where the mayor spent eight years.

“As someone who has given everything to the City of Haverhill—a quarter of a century of his best working years, he gave to Haverhill. So, we really owe him a lot,” he said.

City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr., who served as master of ceremonies, related how Fiorentini rang his doorbell on a Saturday 20 years ago. He said the future mayor told him he was thinking of running for mayor. To which, Cox responded seriously, “Why would you want to do that?” The city lawyer went on to give his summary of why the people continually returned his boss to office.

“His goal has been to deliver the best possible government services at a cost we can all afford. That was a promise he delivered on,” Cox said.

Despite the accolades, Finegold reminded everyone, the word “retirement” is a bit premature.

“We got 10 months and we got a lot to do. Ok? We have a long time and we have myself, (Sen. Pavel) Payano, (Rep.) Ryan Hamilton, (Rep. Andy X.) Vargas. We got a lot to do,” he said.

The only unfamiliar face may have been that of Michael McGovern, a behind-the-scenes political consultant, who jokingly apologized for sending mail into people homes. He said, however, he became a personal supporter as he watched other Gateway Cities in the state struggle over the past 20 years, while “Haverhill has transformed.”

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

Comments are closed.