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Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera Will Step Down Jan. 8 To Head MassDevelopment

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera in his City Hall office. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera in his City Hall office. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera has set his resignation date for Jan. 8. That means the city of Lawrence must now hold a special election.

The city council would need to hold a special election within 90 days of Rivera stepping down, according to city ordinances. The winner of the election would serve the remainder of Rivera's term. However, the city council may seek to bypass the special election with permission from the state.

Rivera would be entering the final year of his second four-year term leading the city. He is leaving his position to become CEO and president of the state's development arm, MassDevelopment.

Rivera said he was "honored and humbled" to be chosen for the role.

“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 in a statement after the announcement last week.

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Lawrence is one of the most diverse cities in the state, and, as mayor, Rivera oversaw the development of 1.5 million square feet of commercial and residential real estate, including siting the first Starbucks coffee shop in the city.

Despite being a Democrat, Rivera has been a close political ally of Baker's, crossing party lines in 2018 to endorse the governor's reelection bid and more recently serving on Baker's COVID-19 reopening task force, helping to develop the guidelines in the spring for reopening the economy from its pandemic shutdown.

“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," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. "I’m confident he will work tirelessly in his new role to support economic growth statewide for all the residents in Massachusetts.”

One of the harder hit communities by the pandemic, Lawrence has a high population of immigrants who have been shown to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Rivera will succeed Lauren Liss as president and CEO of the agency.

Liss announced in October that she would be stepping down at the end of the year after three years at the helm. Liss earned $251,952 in salary in 2019, according to state payroll records. Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy led the search for Liss' replacement.

Rivera was born in the Bronx borough of New York City to a single mother who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic, according to his biography. The family moved to Lawrence, where Rivera went to public schools and eventually enlisted in the Army after high school.

After deployments to Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Rivera returned to Massachusetts and graduated from UMass Amherst.

His post-college career included jobs with the city of Lawrence and as economic development director for former Congressman and current UMass President Marty Meehan.

As mayor, MassDevelopment was one of the state agencies Rivera worked with to complete 13 different infrastructure projects totaling $21.5 million in investment.

He also helped redevelop two closed Showcase Cinema sites located off Route 495 and four mill conversions, according to the city's website, and Lawrence expects the last of more than 1,900 new units of housing to open by the end of 2020.

With reporting by WBUR's Newscast and State House News Service

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