LYNN — Michael Barry, the city’s longstanding attorney, will call it quits next year.
The 67-year-old city solicitor whose law career dates back to serving as assistant attorney general under former Massachusetts Attorney General Frank Bellotti, has been at City Hall since the 1980s.
“I’m retiring now because I can,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a birthday and Valentine’s Day gift to my wife when I retire on February 14.”
Barry said he and his wife recently met with a financial planner. When they did the math, the couple learned the time was right to retire.
Last year, he earned about $134,000 in total compensation, a figure he said is the max for nearly 37 years of public service.
The vacancy is expected to ensure a spirited race for the job. City Hall sources say the city’s three assistant city solicitors may seek the job including James Lamanna, George Markopoulos, and Richard Vitali.
But Lamanna said the job should go to Markopoulos.
“George Markopoulos has been a mentor of mine going back to my college days,” he said. “I believe he’s the best choice to be our next city solicitor.”
The council will choose the new city solicitor next year.
Barry began his work in Lynn as the lawyer for the Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank. In 1984, he was named assistant city solicitor under former Mayor Antonio J. Marino and was tapped as the city’s chief lawyer six years later under Mayor Albert DiVirgilio.
Barry graduated from Holy Cross in 1972 and later attended Suffolk University Law School.
Among the cases he argued successfully for the city is a lawsuit by the state in 2005. The commonwealth sued the city for $9 million over alleged misuse of employment training funds. But Suffolk Superior Court found the city had acted appropriately.
Barry said he is most proud of a case that cost the city just $250. During a 2013 blizzard, a Department of Public Works plow accidentally demolished a homeowner’s fence on B Street.
“The man had been paying taxes to the city of Lynn for 45 years,” he said. “I went up there to take a look and got him a check for the damages three days later. Most cases like this can last up to four years, so getting this taken care of so quickly made me feel good. He deserved it.”
He praised his staff and said they made the job easy.
“They are some of the best lawyers in Lynn and we have a great administrative assistant,” he said. “And we all worked together and got lots of good stuff done.”
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy commended Barry’s decades of service.
“He well deserves his retirement and I wish him well,” she said.
Former Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy called him the greatest legal scholar of all time.
“I’m not kidding,” he said. “He did so much for the city of Lynn it’s hard to name them all.”
Still, Barry said if he had to do it all over again, he would be a history professor at a college like Dartmouth, the Ivy League school in New Hampshire.
“I always loved history and working in a great college town would be ideal,” he said. “Then I could wear those patches on the elbow of my suit coat.”