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Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, who helped steer his city through financial challenges and public safety and health crises over the past seven years, will resign this month to take a job leading MassDevelopment, the Commonwealth’s economic development and finance authority.
Nominated by Gov. Charlie Baker and approved by MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors last month, Rivera will become the agency’s president and CEO on Jan. 11, replacing Lauren Liss, who served for three years.
In a statement, Gov. Baker said that Rivera would offer leadership experience, compassion and a commitment to the economic recovery and growth of municipalities.
“In his role as mayor for the city of Lawrence, Dan met every challenge and seized every opportunity to support his residents and create a stronger economy, including more jobs and housing,” Baker said. “I’m confident he will work tirelessly in his new role to support economic growth statewide for all the residents in Massachusetts.”
MassDevelopment works with businesses, nonprofits, banks and communities to stimulate economic growth statewide. Over the past seven years, Rivera has worked with MassDevelopment and other agencies to finish 13 infrastructure projects.
Rivera said he is excited to focus on economic development during trying times.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MassDevelopment stands to play a role in reconstruction of our economy that is inclusive, equitable and focuses on neighborhoods and business districts in every corner of the Commonwealth,” Rivera said.
Rivera brings more than a decade of city government experience, as manager of a $341 million city operating budget, a $92 million capital improvement plan, and a workforce of 3,500 employees. First elected to the Lawrence City Council in 2009, he served one term before winning his first mayoral race in 2013. He was reelected in 2017, but would have been unable to run in 2021 due to the city’s mayoral term limit.
Rivera may be best known for his leadership following natural gas explosions and fires in September 2018 that damaged properties in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, injured two dozen people and killed a Lawrence teenager. Working with Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and then-North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor to help residents and businesses, Rivera even slept in city shelters with his displaced residents.
Over the past 10 months, Rivera has led efforts to fight COVID in a city that has been hit hard by the virus, with its larger proportion of vulnerable and low-income residents. Rivera served on the Baker-Polito administration’s COVID-19 Reopening Advisory Board earlier this year and more recently on the COVID-19 Vaccine Working Group.
Rivera improved Lawrence’s fiscal stability, building up cash reserves, bolstering the credit rating, and establishing the city’s first five-year capital improvement plan. The mayor oversaw residential and commercial development totalling 1.5 million square feet, with 2,400 new housing units to be finished by the end of 2022. He is also credited with bringing greater hiring diversity to city and school departments and focusing on quality-0f-life improvements, including making three bus routes free to residents in high-need neighborhoods.
Rivera has served on various regional and statewide boards, including the state’s Latino Advisory Commission. This past fall, Rivera received a 2020 Environmental Merit Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England region and MassInc’s first Mayor Bill Carpenter Award for Excellence in Gateway City Leadership, named for the highly regarded Brockton mayor who died in 2019.
An Army veteran who served in Iraq and Kuwait, he worked as a special assistant to former Lawrence Mayor Patricia Dowling and as economic development director for former Congressman Marty Meehan, who is now president of the University of Massachusetts. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UMass Amherst and a master’s in business administration from Suffolk University.
Rivera told the Lawrence City Council on Dec. 15 that he would work with city leaders to ensure a smooth transition, and that his regard for the city will not end with his resignation.
“Just know I did not run for mayor because I sought the power, the title, or the trappings of high office,” Rivera said. “I signed up because there was work to do, much work, important work, to make Lawrence better and to improve the lives and fortunes of its people.”