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Mayor Walsh taps John Barros as economic point man

Mayor Martin J. Walsh named one of his pivotal campaign supporters, John F. Barros, Monday to be the city’s first chief of economic development, a key post in a new administration that has promised major changes at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

With the announcement, Walsh outlined his vision for an inclusive City Hall that will aim to spur economic development beyond downtown and the Seaport District, promising growth in neighborhoods across the city. He focused particularly on small business and said he will seek to make Boston “a place where everyone can climb the economic ladder to success.”

Barros, the mayor said, has the right resume for the job. The 40-year-old has Ivy League credentials (Dartmouth College); time in corporate America (Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. in Manhattan); knowledge of community development (executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative); and experience facing the challenges of owning a small business (Restaurante Cesaria in Dorchester).

Beyond those qualifications, the mayor said he was struck by Barros’s affinity for his hometown.


Martin J. Walsh announced John F. Barros’s selection at a nonprofit cooking school that trains teens for culinary careers.SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

“He’s a guy that deeply cares about the city of Boston,” Walsh said at a press conference. “That’s what we want to make sure we get — people in the [mayor’s] Cabinet that love this city and care about this city and want to make sure we move forward.”

Barros, a former School Committee member, was once Walsh’s rival as both men ran for mayor last year in the crowded preliminary election. Barros finished sixth, but he and another losing candidate, Felix G. Arroyo, joined Walsh’s campaign in the final election.

Soon after, Charlotte Golar Richie also backed Walsh, giving him the potent support of another prominent mayoral candidate of color. The endorsements gave Walsh a substantial boost among black and Latino voters, and helped him expand beyond his base and win the election.


Barros’s appointment as economic development czar had been widely expected. Walsh named Arroyo chief of health and human services shortly before taking office in January.

Golar Richie is a co-chair of Walsh’s transition team, like Arroyo and Barros, but she has not been appointed to a city job. Golar Richie did not respond to inquiries Monday from the Globe. A Walsh spokeswoman declined to answer questions about Golar Richie but said there were no other appointments at this time.

At the press conference Monday, Walsh said he did not promise city jobs to people who endorsed his candidacy.

“It never came up in discussion with anybody, including Charlotte . . . or any elected official who supported me,” Walsh said. “We didn’t talk about it.”

Walsh’s administration did not respond to an inquiry about how many other candidates were interviewed for the economic development post.

Barros is the son of Cape Verdean immigrants and his presence will add diversity to the administration’s 17-member Cabinet. Walsh pledged during the campaign that at least half of his Cabinet would be people of color, but The Bay State Banner published an article last week critical of the lack of diversity in top appointments.

Walsh has named eight people to permanent posts in his Cabinet. Five have been white, and three have been people of color. Walsh has also made two interim appointments (both white), and two Cabinet positions are vacant. Five officials remain from the administration of former mayor Thomas M. Menino and they are all white, although at least two are expected to leave.


In his post as economic development chief, Barros will have jurisdiction over an array of city departments and agencies. His appointment was announced at Future Chefs, a nonprofit cooking school that trains urban teens for culinary careers. The setting was designed to underscore the importance of small business and job training programs.

“I’m really excited to work with a mayor that has a vision that includes everyone in Boston.” Barros said at the press conference.

With Barros as chief of economic development, the Boston Redevelopment Authority will maintain its own director and board, but the agency will be under his purview. Walsh said he and Barros hope to name a new director to the redevelopment authority by the summer.

Barros will also oversee consumer affairs and licensing, tourism, the Boston Employment Commission, jobs and community service, special events, and the Small and Local Business Enterprise Office.

Barros is a “bright guy” who understands business and development, said Darryl Settles, a developer and entrepreneur who owns Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen. Barros knows the challenges faced by small businesses, said Settles, who was encouraged by the appointment of Barros and what Settles described as young, new talent at City Hall.

“My hope as they go forward is that it’s a more inclusive Boston when it comes to economic development,” said Settles, who supported former city councilor John R. Connolly’s bid for mayor. “We want to make sure that the rules are the same for everyone, that everyone has equal access to opportunities. People just want an even playing field.”


Walsh’s administration did not release Barros’s salary because a spokeswoman said it had not been finalized. Other newly appointed Cabinet officials are being paid $124,000 to $174,000, according to city records.

Barros helped start Restaurante Cesaria, a family-owned establishment that serves Cape Verdean food. Records show that Barros gave up ownership of the business in 2011, but he said in an interview that he still has a financial stake in the restaurant.

The restaurant has fallen behind on its taxes, and the state has filed two liens against it since November, according to records from the secretary of state.

Restaurante Cesaria had set up payment plans with the Internal Revenue Service and the state Department of Revenue because it owed $14,500, in part because it was delinquent on workers’ compensation payments, according to the Dorchester Reporter. On Monday, Barros said the restaurant still owed roughly the same amount, which stemmed partly from a misunderstanding over payroll taxes.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com.