Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, a Democrat and ally of Gov. Charlie Baker’s, will be nominated by the governor on Thursday to become the next CEO of MassDevelopment, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
Baker’s choice of Rivera to lead the quasi-public economic development agency, which helps finance housing, cultural and business development around the state, comes as the mayor is entering the last year of his second four-year term as mayor of Lawrence.
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.
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’s nomination will be presented to the MassDevelopment board of directors at their meeting on Thursday, according to one senior state official. The board will then vote to extend Rivera a contract offer, the details of which were not immediately available.
If confirmed, he would succeed Lauren Liss as president and CEO of the agency.
Rivera did not immediately respond to a text and a voice message left on his cellphone Wednesday night.
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’s 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.