Just a few short months ago, Mayor Dan Rizzo would wake up every morning to a work schedule that he had constructed – a schedule based upon running his own insurance business.
It was hard work, but it was his.
Nowadays, someone else makes out that schedule, and his day is determined by the demanding needs of a growing city.
“I always had a full day’s work, but it was on my terms,” said Mayor Rizzo, speaking to the Journal last week about his first 100 days in office. “City Hall has changed all that. I basically have something on my schedule from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed. Today I have 14 appointments that will all probably require follow-ups. It’s like drinking through a fire hose; it just keeps coming and coming. I have no regrets though because I love this job.
“I love coming to work despite the long hours and that will continue as long as I’m here because I have very, very high hopes for the City,” he continued. “I believe we will be the preeminent community on the North Shore or at least viewed that way.”
In the first days of January – after a long, hard campaign and a draining transition planning process – Rizzo took the oath of office and replaced former Mayor Tom Ambrosino. It was the first time anyone else had sat in the mayor’s seat for more than a decade.
Looking back, Rizzo’s two biggest accomplishments since taking office have been replacing former Police Chief Terence Reardon with Acting Chief Joe Cafarelli, and bringing in Economic Development Director John Festa – who has initially spearheaded the very important casino mitigation agreement process.
Changing the police chief was certainly one of Rizzo’s first headline grabbing moves, as many expected him to wait out Reardon’s contract, which was to expire in August.
In last week’s interview, though, Rizzo said that he just could not leave the department the way it was for another day. He said he didn’t believe it would have lasted without a major blow-up.
“It seemed to me from talking with the rank and file that it was like a powder keg ready to blow,” he said. “A lot of resentment had built up within for different reasons. There was a lot of infighting and many different factions…Many were unhappy, calling in sick and not wanting to come to work. It was important for me to make a change as quickly as I could…There’s always going to be a time when change is required and I felt the situation couldn’t continue. Every day that went by I felt was another step backward in my goal to make this a safe community.”
He said that he has since attended a number of roll call meetings, and he plans to attend more to let officers know that he supports them.
“This administration stands with them,” he said.
He also listed bringing Festa in as a major accomplishment, and noted that there has been a lot of public work done by Festa with the casino mitigation meetings, but there has also been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
“The Community Development office really had no one assigned purely to community development,” he said. “I’ve charged John with going out and being pro-active in attracting investment. We’ve ID’d every single parcel ripe for development or re-development. He has done that and now we’re in the planning stages of having an Economic Development summit where we’ll invite developers from around the country to come and see what we have to offer.”
Planning such things has kept Rizzo busy, but one thing that he is doing different than his predecessor is delegating a lot of work. He said his style is the furthest thing from micromanaging, and bringing in good people like Festa to carry out important work will be a hallmark of his administration.
“I maybe have a different style than my predecessor, who was very hands-on,” said Rizzo. “I like to empower our workforce and let them do their job. I believe people should be given responsibilities and I believe it’s my job to let them do their job. For me, I’m on autopilot when it comes to not micromanaging. I’m going to steer the ship, but they’re going to run the ship. That is going to be my philosophy of government as long as I’m here. So far, when I have given people things to do, things are done almost without exception.”
And in that spirit, Rizzo said he would be letting the Department of Public Works (DPW) do its job without a lot of interference, including that of Superintendent Don Goodwin. The DPW was rife with controversy under the previous administration, with numerous embarrassing incidents that transpired within the department. Like the Police Department, some believed that a change in leadership might be the antidote, but Rizzo said he has full confidence in Goodwin.
“I think Donnie Goodwin is doing an excellent job given the tools he has to work with,” said Rizzo. “He has a ton of responsibilities to keep the City going and so far my experiences with him as a councillor and as mayor have been very, very favorable. I can’t expect every single employee to like their boss. I think that’s unreasonable. I can only hope our department heads treat our work staff with the same respect I expect our residents to be treated.”
He also said he thinks the entire DPW has upped its game since he has taken office.
“I just think they’ve really stepped it up and really made a big impact in the City,” he said. “People notice there is an increased effort in keeping the City clean.”
When he’s not busy acclimating himself to City Hall and its eccentricities, Rizzo said he relishes the time he spends surveying the city. He said he devotes a great deal of time canvassing the neighborhoods – noting that every week he takes his assistant and a DPW worker with him to a local coffee shop to talk about issues. When they finish there, they walk the streets and neighborhood in the area to talk with people; to find out their concerns.
In summation, Mayor Dan Rizzo was always very public as a city councillor about his mayoral aspirations.
He talked openly about it.
He waited in line behind Mayor Ambrosino, while still keeping his eye trained on the top office.
And in the end, it appears that the job he always wanted is exactly the job he has found.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself because this is just a great time to have the opportunity to come in as mayor of Revere,” he said.