John Barros, Boston’s chief of economic development since 2014, is on the cusp of announcing this month he will run for mayor, people close to his thinking say, joining an increasingly crowded race.
Barros, who placed sixth in the 2013 Boston preliminary mayoral race, said in a brief phone call that he’s continuing to have “really encouraging conversations across the city” about joining the race.
“[I] have looked at what [organizing a campaign] during the pandemic would look like, what the strategies during the pandemic would be as opposed to when I ran in 2013, and how much it would cost to be able to execute,” said Barros.
Conan Harris, who became close friends with Barros during their years at City Hall, said he has been encouraging Barros to run. Harris said Barros has the track record, both as a top official in Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration and for leading neighborhood revitalization and other efforts. Prior to joining the city in 2014, Barros served as executive director for the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
Barros, 47, who is of Cape Verdean descent, was born and raised in Roxbury and currently lives in Dorchester. He has been Boston’s chief of economic development for seven years, and was at Dudley Street for 13 years. He earned a master’s degree in public policy from Tufts University and is a Dartmouth College grad.
As the city’s chief of economic development, he has recruited businesses to Boston and recently spearheaded a study that explores how the city can better offer contracts to businesses owned by women and people of color, a top city official said. He also oversaw the development grant programs to assist small businesses crushed during the pandemic.
“John is a Boston guy,’' said Harris, who worked in Walsh’s administration for four years. “He grew up in Boston, he’s attended Boston schools and he’s worked in Boston.”
If Barros does make a mayoral run official, it would pit his administrative abilities against the legislative acumen of the three city councilors — Andrea Campbell, Michelle Wu, and Annissa Essaibi George — who have declared their candidacy.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who is in the last year of his second term, was expected to run for re-election. But in January, President Biden nominated Walsh to become the nation’s next labor secretary, nudging additional candidates to consider joining the contest.
Councilor Kim Janey, who is in line to become acting mayor when Walsh leaves to join the Biden administration, is reportedly considering joining the race. State Representative Jon Santiago, a South End Democrat and emergency room doctor, also appears to be preparing to run. And Dorchester resident Dana Depelteau has also filed campaign paperwork with the state to run for mayor.
This week, the City Council passed a home rule petition that would avoid a special mayoral election should Walsh leave City Hall before March 5, following concerns about the city hosting another election amid the pandemic. On Friday, Walsh signed that measure, sending the matter to the State House, where it needs approval from lawmakers and the governor to become reality.
One City Hall insider said that in a tumultuous year, Barros would be in the best position to continue the work that the Walsh administration has started.
“Nobody has any idea how big and complex that [City Hall] organism is until they’ve actually experienced it,’' said the City Hall insider who backs Barros. “The fact that John has been part of a pretty small senior team for Mayor Walsh for seven years just gives him an edge.”
Colette Phillips, who runs her own communications firm and is a longtime business leader, said she has discussed with Barros the possibility of him running as recently as this month.
“If he throws his oar into the water, he will be a strong candidate,’' Phillips said. “Having worked at City Hall, he has a keen understanding of the internal workings of this municipality.”
Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report.