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As a lifelong resident of Newburyport, how have you seen the city change?

I’ve seen a few waves of change: First was the transformation of downtown in the late 1960s and 1970s. The mayor at the time, George Lawler, along with the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (now dissolved), were visionaries when it came to preservation and renewal of downtown’s historic buildings. The second change was bringing the commuter rail back to the city and putting us on the map.

What do you see as the most positive changes?

Today, Newburyport is a great, safe place to raise a family. It’s close to Boston and southern Maine and its location on the harbor offers incredible recreation.  

What do you like most about living in Newburyport?

The Merrimack River is my favorite thing. I think Water Street is one of the nicest stretches in the United States. 

As a former Essex County sheriff and a Black man, can you comment on the Black Lives Matter movement and Newburyport’s own protests?

I like to see young people in Newburyport protesting peacefully. It’s such an important and historical time. When I was a young, I went to Martin Luther King, Jr., protests and marches. But this type of change has been difficult. I was the first sheriff of color in New England—one of the largest law enforcement agencies. Promoting diversity was a number one priority while I was sheriff. But when you don’t have good values and there is a breakdown of strong leadership, it creates problems in police departments. The plight of young Black men in America living in poor communities with poor schools and lack of family support has not helped the disparity or cycle of incarceration. 

How have businesses been coping through COVID-19 restrictions? 

Mayor Donna Holaday has shown great leadership, and we have been working hard to get businesses open. We have been working through issues and ultimately the goal is to keep people safe. Employees have been amazing following the CDC guidelines to ensure this. 

If someone was visiting Newburyport, what is one thing you would tell them they need to see/visit? 

Walk! Walk everywhere: along the boardwalk, along the bike path, along State Street. It’s the perfect walkable city. 

The restaurant scene is so rich; do you have a favorite go to place?

I love Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar and Vera Ristorante. To open in this climate is really tough, and I’m thrilled these great restaurants pushed forward. 

What do you see for the future of the city? 

Bringing a hotel to the waterfront—that will help complete the city.