BROCKTON — Mayor Bill Carpenter, a high-visibility leader who worked to stem the opioid crisis in his community and beyond, died suddenly Wednesday, officials said. He was 62.
Carpenter was the father of six children and was planning to run for a fourth term.
“His indefatigable and infectious approach to governing had created unprecedented momentum and urban renewal in the city’s downtown,’’ his administration wrote in a statement announcing his death. “The mayor was a nationally recognized innovator in substance use treatment, and was also recognized nationally for his advocacy in funding for public education.”
No foul play is suspected, but the state medical examiner’s office will conduct an autopsy, according to Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz’s office.
Cruz said Brockton police got a 911 call Wednesday morning after Carpenter was found unreponsive in a vehicle parked outside the Arnone Elementary School. Carpenter was rushed to Good Samaritan Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
Bob Buckley, the mayor’s best friend of 40 years and former chief of staff, said he met Carpenter when they worked in sports media — Carpenter as a talk show host and Buckley as a sports writer.
“He was just that type of guy that could light up a room, had a tremendous sense of humor, and just got along with everybody,” said Buckley, 58.
“I remember when he first decided to run for mayor,” he continued. “We all chuckled a little bit, but he was so passionate about the opioid issue — that’s why he ran for School Committee in the first place — and then once he got elected, within six months he was on the governor’s council for opioid addiction.”
Buckley said the full effect of Carpenter’s work won’t be felt for another 10 to 15 years because so many projects that he championed are still building steam.
“It’s just going to be a void that I think the city will never be able to replace. I really don’t,” he said.
City Councilor Winthrop Farwell said Carpenter was especially focused on helping people with drug addiction. “That is going to be one of his significant legacies to the city — his recognition that the plight of others who are less fortunate, and recognizing that this can strike anyone regardless of his station in life. He was committed to helping them.”
At Carpenter’s insistence, all first responders in Brockton began carrying naloxone, which can almost immediately reverse the toxic effect of an overdose. Speaking at a forum this spring, Carpenter outlined why he was so focused on drug addiction.
His son became addicted to heroin while a high school student, and what Carpenter saw as the failure of the school system to lend a helping hand prompted him to run for the School Committee, and then mayor.
“The impact of the opioid epidemic is what got me into politics,’’ Carpenter said. “I have experienced firsthand what the collateral damage is like within a family . . . We’ve tried to be a leader in every way that we can in helping families battle this public health crisis.”
Carpenter’s approach appeared to have an effect. Brockton has experienced a decline in opioid-related deaths, from 49 in 2017 to 34 in 2018 among Brockton residents, and from 71 to 51 among people who died while in Brockton.
Nicholas Giaquinto, 31, Carpenter’s chief of staff, described his boss as unusually devoted to his work and credited him with revitalizing Brockton’s downtown.
“That’s a really big difference between Bill Carpenter and other mayors,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress marketing the city and taking advantage of what the city has to offer. He was the best at marketing Brockton, selling Brockton.”
Farwell said Carpenter appeared to be facing challenging health conditions in recent weeks and said he had recently undergone heart-related surgery.
City Council President Moises Rodrigues will take over Carpenter’s job on an acting basis. In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, he signaled that he will not make sudden changes in city policies.
“This is Bill Carpenter’s administration, and we’re going to keep that moving forward,” Rodrigues said. “We ask for support for the mayor’s family and his family in city hall.”
Carpenter’s death was noted by public officials across the state.
Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken tweeted that she was devastated upon hearing of Carpenter’s death. “To the family of @MayorBillCarp my deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers to you all. He was a wonderful man, kind, funny, friendly. To the City of Brockton the City of Gloucester sends condolences.”
On his official Twitter account, Governor Charlie Baker wrote that Carpenter was a “deeply committed public servant who was dedicated to improving the lives of his neighbors. We join them and the entire community in mourning his passing.”
Carpenter leaves his six children and life partner, Juli Caldwell, according to his administration.
Felice Freyer of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Diamond Naga Siu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @diamondnagasiu