After nearly three decades in public service, City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina said he will not seek reelection this year, opening the floodgates for potential challengers to vie for another open council seat.
“I’m leaving my district in a good place right now,’’ LaMattina said in a Wednesday interview.
LaMattina, a 57-year-old East Boston resident, said he will retire after 11 years as the councilor in District 1, which includes East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End. He plans to spend more time with his family and will remain active in his community, he said.
The impending departure of LaMattina, who will leave at the end of his term, follows announcements from two of his colleagues – Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor, and Bill Linehan.
That leaves the council with three vacancies and growing list of candidates eyeing a council job that comes with a public profile, bully pulpit, and a nearly $100,000 annual salary. At least three potential challengers said they are seriously considering a run for the District 1 seat.
LaMattina said he had been contemplating a council exit since last year and came to a decision last week with his wife, Lisa.
“It was really a hard decision, because I really love being a city councilor,’’ he said.
LaMattina grew up in East Boston, the oldest of four boys. He was raised in an Italian home with a grandmother who did not speak English and a single mother on welfare. But the community helped to shape him, he said, at youth centers and with role models. He became the first in his family to attend college.
He went on to marry Lisa, who was also raised in East Boston, and they stayed in the neighborhood, even as many residents fled for a better life in the suburbs.
Back then, the neighborhood was littered with trash, abandoned homes, and vacant stores. But LaMattina said he and other residents fought for the neighborhood’s turnaround. They wrestled with the state to extend the greenway and maintain residential discount prices at the tolls. They pushed to get the parks cleaned up. Schools and recreational centers were renovated, and a library was built.
“He served us well,’’ said Lisa Capogreco, a long-time East Boston resident. “He served us well, and he was very hands on and compassionate.”
Today, the district faces a new set of challenges. High-priced developments have made Eastie residents feel squeezed out and have even led to evictions, said Jack Scalcione, chairman of the Gove Street Citizens Association.
“I consider him basically a good guy at heart,” Scalcione said of LaMattina. “We’ve certainly differed on some issues, especially on housing.”
LaMattina, a nuts-and-bolts councilor, said he kept his decision to leave quiet. He acknowledged that the departures of his friends Stephen Murphy, who lost his reelection bid two years ago, and Linehan, who is not seeking a second term, played a role in his decision.
On Tuesday evening, he informed friends and family that he would not seek another term. The NorthEndWaterfront.com website first reported the announcement. LaMattina said he doesn’t have another job lined up.
“I want to spend more time with my wife,’’ he said. “She put up with me for 30 years going to community meetings and not being able to get away when I want to.”
His colleagues said they will miss him.
“Sal has been a great colleague and a tireless advocate for basic city services in the community that he represents,’’ Jackson said.
Since LaMattina’s Tuesday announcement, a growing list of potential challengers has surfaced.
They include Lydia Edwards, a public interest lawyer from East boston; Jack Kelly, a Linehan aide from Charlestown; Joe Ruggiero, a business owner from East Boston; and Stephen Passacantilli, a fixture in the North End and staunch campaigner for Mayor Martin J. Walsh. All four have said they are seriously considering a run or are interested in competing.
Passacantilli said he plans to meet with the mayor, who is up for reelection, before making a final decision. He said he wants to ensure the mayor is reelected. Passacantilli had been the director of operations for the Boston Transportation Department and was recently tapped as operations specialist for the Economic Development Department.
“I’ve always had a passion for public service,’’ he said. “Of course, I’m considering running.”
Kelly, 36, is the addiction and mental health policy advisor for Linehan. He developed an app that connects addicts in recovery to assistance. He ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat in the 2013 election.
Kelly said he will consult with his family over the Easter weekend before making a final decision soon. He said he would continue to put the focus on the opioid crisis and address other issues such as housing and transportation.
“I feel I could have an impact as a city councilor,’’ Kelly said.
Edwards, an East Boston resident, currently serves as the city’s deputy director of the Department of Neighborhood Development.
Ruggiero is the 29-year-old owner of Ruggiero Memorial home. Edwards, Ruggiero, and potential challenger Diana Hwang — founder of the Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative — competed unsuccessfully in the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate District race in 2015.
The name of LaMattina’s daughter, Liana LaMattina, has also been mentioned as a potential challenger. The councilor said that is unlikely.Meghan E. Irons can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.