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Bypasses a run for governor

(Somerville Wire) – Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone is venturing beyond politics. Having been in office for the past 18 years, he announced in March 2021 that he would not be running for reelection. This declaration led many to infer that he might be considering a campaign for the position of governor of Massachusetts, something that Curtatone has never quite ruled out. But on September 8, the Boston Globe announced that the current mayor is to become the president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council, a nonprofit business consortium.

“When I made my announcement in March, there was no agenda behind [it], other than the reasons I stated,” said Curtatone. “I’m sad I’m leaving. … When you want to leave, you want to transition the right way so that the next mayor, whoever she or he may be, the administration continues to succeed.” He added that he does not believe he could replicate his current job, but that he is excited about the new position. “That’s what attracted me to the NECEC job, what it could be. I had no desire just to head up a member organization, but an organization that espouses to be a catalyst for human and social impact and global impact in the climate crisis, [that] understands the intersectionality of that through a lens of equity, how it impacts everything in our lives, from our health, to our education, to the economy.”

During his time as mayor, Curtatone has made the environment a priority, developing a plan to have Somerville achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. He also led with a push to divest the local pension fund from fossil fuels. Having been raised in Somerville, Curtatone said that he has seen the city transform into the progressive place that he says that it is today. Somerville has come to be a city that embraces diversity, he said.

“I grew up in Somerville, and we’ve always been a city of immigrants. Mostly at that time, though, we were Irish, Italian, Portuguese, and Greek,” said Curtatone. “But now we speak more than 52 languages from all over the world. It’s always been a city of hope, a welcoming city. But that doesn’t mean that it was always welcoming, growing up. I’ve seen discrimination. … [I had friends] who grew up in almost segregated neighborhoods. But you can see, in a small way, [it] replicated the segregation in Greater Boston. … [Since then], I’ve seen, over the years, the community lead with equity, lead with racial and social justice.”

Somerville held a preliminary election on September 14, and two candidates, Councilor Will Mbah and Councilor Katjana Ballantyne, will be moving forward to the November ballot. Reflecting on the election, Curtatone said that he is “proud” and that “three progressive, value based, honest, hardworking, ethical people” led the way. One candidate, William “Billy” Tauro, who came in fourth place, announced on the Somerville News Weekly, on September 18, that he would still be in the race, calling the election fraudulent. Curtatone, when asked to comment on this statement, expressed disapproval.

“The only fraud in this election was that candidate …” said Curtatone. “The only candidate who ran yesterday, who was convicted of fraud and actually went to prison, was that candidate. I’ll leave it at that. [The claim that] people didn’t pay attention or couldn’t read, he was wrong on both. Somerville, thank you. I thank everyone who went out to vote yesterday. I thank everyone who sent a loud statement. They voted evenly across the board for the top three candidates. … They sent a loud statement to that candidate, [Tauro], that we’re not buying it. We were fooled once, as a nation, before, we’re not going to be fooled by a surrogate of that same [movement] as 2016. He does not stand for one value of this community that defines who we are.”

Curtatone expects that his successor will have challenges ahead. The new mayor will have to grapple with COVID-19, the climate crisis, economic development, and issues like making daycare more affordable. While Curtatone is taking next steps in addressing climate change, he said that he would not discount the possibility of running for office again. When it comes to the legacy that he believes he is leaving behind, what he would like to be remembered for, Curtatone said that he cannot really speculate.

“I’ve been asked that several times, and I just don’t know how to answer that,” said Curtatone. “I hope, simply … I hope history judges me well. … I’m a product of this community. I grew up here. … [I hope people see] that I honorably and passionately fought and represented community values and tried to make it a better place for everyone. That’s fine with me. And hopefully history judges well. … I’m just a kid from Prospect Hill. I’ve loved this city since the day I knew where I was.”

This article is syndicated by the Somerville Wire municipal news service of the Somerville News Garden project of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.

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