Biography of Dan Rivera
A “Lawrence Kid”, Dan is the son of a single mother who emigrated to New York (where Dan was born) from the Dominican Republic to find a better life for her family and brought her family to Lawrence to find work as a seamstress in the area Mills.
Dan went to Lawrence Public Schools and as a youth was a Boy Scout, a member of the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, a newspaper delivery boy for the Eagle Tribune, a United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol Cadet, a leader in the Columbia Squires the youth fraternity of the Knights of Columbus, Co-chair of Lawrence High School Model United Nations, and high school Senior Class Secretary.
After graduating high school in 1989, Dan enlisted in the United States Army and became a Military Police Officer stationed in Germany. After a few years in Europe his unit, the 3rd Armored Division, was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. After his tour overseas, Dan returned home and worked his way through college on the GI Bill at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at UMass Amherst, he was elected Student Trustee, worked as a Resident Assistant, and as a staff member of the New WORLD Theater, and was able to complete his undergraduate degree in three years. Dan was the first in his family to graduate college.
Once Dan returned to Lawrence from College, he worked in different political and social services organizations including interning for then Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, Program Manager for Catholic Charities, Lawrence, and as a Coordinator at the Mauricio Gaston Institute, at the University of Massachusetts Boston until he landed a job as Special Assistant to Lawrence Mayor Patricia Dowling.
One of Dan’s highest honors was becoming the Manager of the Stadium Courts & Market Street housing projects at the Lawrence Housing Authority where he grew up. While at the Housing Authority, Dan went to school nights and weekends and received a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Suffolk University.
Throughout this period in his life, Dan worked on various Congressional and state-wide campaigns. After managing then Congressman John Tierney’s successful reelection campaign, Dan went to work as Economic Development Director for Congressman Marty Meehan, later joining the private sector for a career in Marketing and moving away from Lawrence. Dan has worked as a Direct and Database Marketing Manager for various public and privately held companies.
In 2008, Dan returned to Lawrence and bought his first home through the Veteran’s Home Loan program. In 2009, Dan ran for City Councilor at Large in Lawrence and won the part-time position. Dan took office at a time when there was a majority of people of color on the City Council, on the School Committee and the City had just elected its first Latino Mayor. Deval Patrick was Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Barack Obama was President of the United States. Though the City’s leadership was diverse and ready to serve, they were confronted with a $23 Million dollar structural deficit and had to cut services, lay off workers, and borrow money to pay its bills. Because of his MBA, Dan was elected by his fellow City Councilors as Chairman of the Budget and Finance subcommittee. Unfortunately, the then Mayor became a hated, polarizing, and infamous figure paralyzing and dividing the City in many ways. Dan provided key leadership in cutting budget fat in order to restore key services and personnel including $400,000 to bring back laid off police officers.
In 2011, Dan took time off from his day Job to work as a State-wide Latino Field Director for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s first Senate campaign. In 2012, after the publication of Boston Magazine’s article “Lawrence, MA: City of the Damned“, captured an avalanche of bad stories about corruption and crime in Lawrence, it was clear to many that the City needed a change in Leadership. Late that year a small group of Lawrencians and Dan decided to run a campaign to change the City and that Dan would run for Mayor. After 16 months of campaigning Dan beat a field of 5 in the municipal preliminary and built a coalition to go on and beat the incumbent in the general election by 81 votes. A contentious recount ensued and in the end the Lawrence Board of Registrars verified Dan’s victory as the 59th Mayor of the City of Lawrence. In the Mayoral election of 2017, after 4 years of progress and hard work, the voters of the City of Lawrence went to the polls and re-elected Mayor Rivera to a 2nd four year term.
Dan has served the Lawrence community in many community groups and boards such as a member of the Colonial Heights Neighborhood Association, Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association, Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association, Lawrence Boys and Girls Club board, Platform Committee Member of Massachusetts Democratic State Party, Past Co-Chair of the Lawrence Democratic City Committee, Site Captain for Groundwork Lawrence’s Annual Spicket River Clean Up, Advisory Board Member for Family Service Inc., past Board President of Hope Street Youth Center and Treasurer for the Lawrence Youth Development Organization, Northern Essex Community College Board of trustees.
Dan lives in Lawrence, with his wife Paula and their son Daniel, 5 and daughter Charlotte, 2 ½.
Terms in office
Mayor Rivera was re-elected in 2017 and is in his 2nd term. As Mayor, Dan Rivera has worked hard to restore the City’s reputation and unity, rebuild its public safety departments, reducing crime, renew our commitment to our youth and schools, refocus City Hall on professionalism and customer service, bringing jobs and economic growth to the City, and regaining the trust of our City’s residents by establishing and maintaining the City’s financial health. All the while spending much time rehabilitating the City’s image across the commonwealth and beyond.
Responsible for ushering the City out of decade long fiscal oversight; by producing and passing seven fiscally sound budgets that funded the hiring in the Police Department, more money to our schools, the City’s growing overhead, added services, and other costs; on time and with no one-time money or exotic budgeting practices.
Insured year over year spending & procurement discipline. Building and enforcing sound financial practices, protocols and policies. Current budget is $341 Million.
Built the City’s cash reserves up to nearly $16 Million for the first time in the City’s history. Ensured that staff used resources judiciously. Personally managed “budget buster” areas and departments week to week to make sure year end goals were met.
Worked to achieve 3 credit rating increases, to the highest in City history. Moody’s ratings went from a low of Baa3 to high of A2 and Standard and Poor’s from A- to A, Moody’s credited the city’s leadership with developing annual capital budgets and five-year fiscal forecast.
Lead the renaissance of the City’s Public Library. Hired first Latino Library Director, who brought new energy and much needed professionalism, leadership and vision to the Library; and who has showcased world renowned authors like Junot Diaz, and Julia Alvarez. Invested $1,580,000 in capital improvement to modernize the library with a new HVAC system, a new elevator and new rugs for the children’s room. Opened library to weekend hours after 10 years of being closed on weekends.
In 7 years the diversity of the City’s employees grew by 9.38%. In that time Dan has hired 18 department heads from a Police and Fire Chief, to a School Superintendent, and Cemetery Director. In 2014, 4 directors were people of color and 4 were women, today there are 18 people of color and 11 women (26 total department heads).
Diversified the Lawrence Police Department making it a majority minority Police department with 53% of the officers being people of color; more than tripled the number of women, from 5 to 16.
Created and implemented first five-year Capital Improvement Plan in the City’s history. Since then, 72+ Projects funded, 38 completed successfully, 34 ongoing. Committed funding for $64+ Million in multi-year water/sewer distribution improvements - $45+ Million of it is complete. Close to $6+ Million in State Aid for road repair for road paving, sidewalk repair and some engineering design to leverage Federal and other State dollars. All projects designed, bid, procured, and paid with an expedited effort.
Completed 13 infrastructure projects across the city, totaling $21.5M over the last five years. Worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Department of Transportation, MassDOT, Mass Development and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development of the Commonwealth to get funding for each of these improvement projects.
Oversaw and facilitated 1.5 Million square feet of real estate development, both residential and commercial. Sited first Starbuck’s coffee shop in the City. We have shepherded the redevelopment of two shuttered Showcase Cinema sites off Rte. 495, and four large mill conversions and renovations throughout the City. Supported the City’s 1st in a long time brewery Spicket River Brewery. Supported businesses of different sizes from New Balance to bodegas.
Implemented City-wide Fare-Free Transit Bus program. Using cash reserves made “Fare-Free” the three bus routes that start and end in the City limits and go through the neighborhoods with most need. Immediate growth in ridership and access, resulting in reduction in overall transportation costs for families.
By the end of 2020, we expect the last of 1,900+ units of housing to come online in the city. Working with large private developers, mid-sized Local immigrant entrepreneurs, Community Development Organizations, & non-profits to increase & rehab the City housing stock so as to deal with the housing/rent crisis facing the City.
Invested in post incarceration trades training for men of color coming back into the community. Leveraging State resources, City dollars and community based organizations to provide real trades training to clients. This effort resulted in securing jobs for students with an average wage of $31.20/hr.
Reorganized and refocused the anti-youth violence programs Citywide. Found subject matter organization to run State SSYI & Shannon Youth at risk Grant program, established open gym every night of the week in the City. Invested $150,000/yr in added anti-gang street workers.
During his tenure, the City has successfully negotiated, and funded all 22 collective bargaining agreements and most of them twice, focused on making them equitable but affordable. Having to argue the City’s case before the Massachusetts Joint Labor Management Commission as well ad the Civil Service Commission.
Hollywood in Lawrence! During his time as Mayor Dan and his administration have worked to bring high quality filming of movies to the City and raise the City’s profile, brand and overall pride. The films recorded in the City of Lawrence in the last 6 plus years: Little Women, Live by Night, Detroit, Proud Mary, Daddy’s Home II, Wheelman.
Oversaw the implementation of the state’s turnaround plan for the Lawrence Public Schools which resulted in: the creation of the city’s first accelerated studies program, a continued increase in the percentage of students scoring at proficient and advanced levels, yearly additions of Level 1 schools or schools meeting their state performance targets, and Lawrence becoming a model of educational revitalization across the nation.
Supported the increase of graduation rates by over 51 percent from 2014 to 2019.
Secured funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the renovation of existing school buildings as well as the creation of new ones.
Invested in renovation projects for school buildings across the district including roof replacements for the North Common Education Complex and Arlington Educational Complex, boiler replacements for the Arlington Educational Complex, North Common Educational Complex, Bruce School, and Leahy School.
Promoted the hiring of Lawrence residents and Latino teachers which resulted in a 120 percent increase of employees who were Lawrence residents and an over 130 percent increase in the amount of Latino teachers in the district.
Led the Lawrence Alliance for Education board’s nationwide search for the first hired superintendent since entering into receivership.
Hired the first Latina superintendent in the district’s history.
Set a new focus on investing in the expansion of sports, arts and enrichment opportunities across the district; including the funding of new wrestling mats, gym renovations as well as scoreboard and equipment upgrades. These opportunities allowed for Lawrence students to be competitive participants in multiple spheres including: theatre, basketball, track, robotics, and football.
Expanded city-wide middle school intramural sports program through the acquisition of $200,000 from Play Ball! Foundation.
Led the initiative on school zone & Neighborhood safety through the installment of removable speed bumps, upgraded LED exterior lighting, and security screens on windows.