Their cities are more different than they are similar but four local mayors, including two sworn into new terms in office this week and last, face shared challenges.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, Medford Mayor Stephanie M. Burke, Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. and Revere Mayor Brian M. Arrigo are all relatively young leaders who each have been in office fewer than 10 years.
Christenson and Arrigo are midway through their respective terms while Burke easily won reelection last November and Bettencourt ran unopposed for his fourth term. As municipal executives they oversee cities that are not poor, but are not as well off as some of the Commonwealth’s richest cities.
The four cities face their share of challenges — most notably the flooding and freezing that inundated Revere’s shoreline last Thursday. But the mayoral quartet are looking to the future to make their cities more prosperous and strengthen their ties to regional economies.
Burke has made improving Medford’s neighborhoods and bringing Medford Vocational Technical High School into the 21st century her priorities. But she also knows that the $1 billion Green Line extension project with a station planned for College Square is significant for her city.
A subway line running through Medford means a direct link to Boston and a more than symbolic economic connection between Boston and Medford. Building a Green Line station in Medford also opens up for imaginative discussion ideas and concepts for linking Medford’s development plans, Tuft University’s priorities, and state transportation goals.
With the Green Line taking aim at her city, Burke is easily the envy of other mayors who don’t have the transportation planning options she enjoys. Peabody has long enjoyed highway access as an economic generator, but Bettencourt has focused on the city’s core development while pledging at his Monday inaugural to expand city development focus from Peabody Square and Main Street to Walnut Street to Wilson Square corridor.
Bettencourt also has his sights set on reviving the North River’s banks as a recreational area and linking Peabody and Salem by rail. These are ideas that have yet to even see the drawing board but he is astute enough to know that improved quality of life for Peabody residents depends in part on how the city can prosper as a regional partner with other communities.
Arrigo and Revere already enjoy regional connections thanks to the Blue Line and Suffolk Downs’ location in East Boston and Revere. Arrigo is pushing to bring Amazon to the Revere side of the sprawling track property. Even if that long-shot doesn’t pay off, Suffolk and the former Wonderland Greyhound Park offer development potential that can boost Revere’s economy and its regional status.
Malden’s Christenson can be forgiven for focusing on his city’s center as Malden embarks on a major downtown redevelopment that will feature improved traffic flow and new city buildings. But Malden’s proximity to Everett and Revere, where local economies are poised to explode, and by extension Chelsea with its renaissance, positions the city to be a regional player.