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As the calendar turns, some eastern Mass. cities begin new eras of leadership under new mayors

Acting Revere Mayor Patrick M. Keefe Jr., who will be sworn into his first full, four-year term on Jan. 1, 2024, posed for a portrait in his office on Thursday.Tanner Pearson for the Boston Globe

A new year brings fresh challenges for the leaders of small cities across Massachusetts, which will swear in mayors, city councilors, and school committee members during a week of ceremonies starting on New Year’s Day.

Ambitious goals for school construction projects and road repairs, housing growth and climate protection are among the top concerns for mayors settling into the corner office for the first time.

Patrick M. Keefe Jr., Revere’s acting mayor since spring, will be sworn in for his first full term in a 7 p.m. ceremony Monday at the Susan B. Anthony Middle School. Keefe, the former city council president, was appointed in April to serve out the remaining term for Mayor Brian Arrigo, who resigned to become commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

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Keefe said increasing housing availability is a priority for the North Shore city which has seen a boom of high-end housing along its storied beach, a critical issue shared by communities across the state.

“The demand that we have for people to be able to work and live in this community is becoming greater than ever,” Keefe said in an interview. “We have an obligation to make sure that we have more affordable spaces for them to live.”

The city’s 49-year-old high school continues to be in need of a major overhaul. Debates around the future of the school have dragged on for years, with people split on whether to rebuild or find a new site. Earlier this year, the city council voted down a design plan for a new high school at the former Wonderland Greyhound Park dog track. Angry students organized a march in response, raising the alarm about the building’s aging facilities and packed classrooms.

Keefe said the first three months of the new year will be a “critical time” for the city to decide its path forward with the high school. He said Revere High School is “truly busting at the seams” as enrollment has pushed up to between 2,200 and 2,300 students, and it could be another five years, at best, before a new school would reopen.

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“I don’t really see them holding it together much longer after that without having to think of modular classrooms or finding space elsewhere,” he said.

Looking to the waterfront, Keefe said his administration will continue to pursue coastal resiliency grants for infrastructure projects to protect homeowners and city resources in areas prone to flooding.

“It really will never be enough when it comes to the amount of work that needs to be done, but we definitely think if we address what we can it will give everyone more of an opportunity to enjoy living on the ocean or riverside for the next decade.”

In Haverhill, city councilor Melinda Barrett, was elected as the city’s first woman mayor in the race to succeed Mayor James J. Fiorentini, who is retiring after 20 years in office. She will be sworn in on Tuesday during a ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. at City Hall.

“It’s humbling to be elected, and being the first female mayor for the city with a long line of guys before me, it’s an exciting thing for a lot of people in the city as well as myself,” Barrett said in an interview last week.

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Haverhill Mayor-Elect Melinda Barrett looks over the city hall auditorium as it was being prepared for the city's inauguration ceremony on Tuesday. Barrett, a longtime city councilor, is the first woman elected mayor of Haverhill, one of the largest cities in the Merrimack Valley. She will succeed James J. Fiorentini, who is retiring after 20 years in office. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The city is preparing for a major redevelopment project on Merrimack Street, the heart of its downtown. A key component of the $160 million project is replacing an aging parking deck with a full parking garage.

Barrett said the new garage will have almost 700 parking spaces and the project will include a mix of residential, commercial, and public space that she hopes will “bring the vibrancy back” to downtown.

“My hope is that it’s the beginning of an 18-hour economy downtown,” she said.

Barrett is looking to settle contract negotiations with the Haverhill firefighters union, which says its members have been working without a bargaining agreement for more than 900 days. She is also pushing to build a new fire station off Route 97 near Interstate 495 to better serve the western parts of the city.

“It’s right off the highway, so it’ll make our arrival times to different sections of the city faster,” she said. “That might be a long haul, but I’m going to try to work on that.”

Fitchburg Mayor-Elect Samantha M. Squailia will be sworn in Tuesday in a 6:30 p.m. ceremony at the city’s high school. Squailia, a former city councilor, defeated Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale, an eight-year incumbent.

“We’ll see what state the mayor’s office is left in come January 2 but I’ve got a great staff and we’re going to be able to tackle any challenge that comes,” Squailia, who will be the third woman to serve as the city’s mayor, said in a phone interview.

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One of the biggest challenges is the long-term recovery from July’s devastating floods that struck Central Massachusetts.

Fitchburg was inundated with heavy rainfall that caused major flooding and up to $5 million in damage, Squailia said.

She said the city has received state grants to go toward climate resiliency, such as a project to separate the combined stormwater and sewer system that runs through the city. She said the city is also increasing the size of its stormwater lines.

“Storm flows are only going to increase, so we’re increasing those lines and also incorporating ... more natural storm mitigation technologies like permeable pavement and rain garden areas, which we’re going to be implementing in the next year,” Squailia said.

Squailia also said the city has assessed the conditions of its worn roads in the months following the flooding in July. She said she also aims to implement a road management strategy for Fitchburg, which is home to a large state university. She hopes to improve the online system residents use to report potholes, streetlight outages, and other concerns.

“We need to increase communication with residents,” she said.

Along with a few new mayors, several incumbents will also be sworn in over the next week.

Mayors to be sworn in Monday include Robert F. Sullivan in Brockton; Greg Verga in Gloucester; Jon Mitchell in New Bedford; Domenic Sarno in Springfield. Mayors taking the oath on Tuesday include Michael Cahill in Beverly; Paul Coogan in Fall River; Ted Bettencourt in Peabody. Attleboro Mayor Cathleen DeSimone will be sworn in for her first full term. She won a special election in March to fill out the term of Paul Heroux, who resigned after being elected the Bristol County sheriff.

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Marlborough Mayor-Elect J. Christian Dumais, a former city councilor, will be sworn in at 10 a.m. during a ceremony at the city’s middle school. He was elected in November to succeed the city’s long-term retiring Mayor Arthur Vigeant. In Woburn, Michael Concannon, the city council president, will be sworn at 7:30 p.m. at Woburn Memorial High School. He defeated Mayor Scott Galvin, a 12-year incumbent.

Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn and Waltham Mayor Jeannette A. McCarthy will be sworn in during inaugural ceremonies scheduled for Jan. 7. On Jan. 8, Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch will take the oath at 10 a.m. , and new Melrose Mayor Jennifer Grigoraitis at 7:30 p.m.,

Some cities with four-year mayoral terms, such as Everett, Lawrence, Lynn, Newburyport, Newton, and Salem, won’t be swearing in new mayors but will be seating city councilors and school committees, according to local officials.

Globe correspondent Adam Sennott contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.