Curtatone won’t seek reelection as Somerville mayor

Nine terms is enough, says longtime city leader 

JOE CURTATONE, the feisty longtime mayor of Somerville, who has been an outspoken leader on progressive municipal policy — from his early declaration of racism as a public health crisis to his support for bike lanes and aggressive measures to contain COVID and the inequities it has laid bare — said Monday that he won’t run for a 10th two-year term this fall.

Curtatone, who was elected in 2003, has been one of the longest serving mayors in the state. He made the announcement in a virtual speech delivered Monday afternoon. 

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the city where I was raised,” he said in announcing his decision.

Curtatone’s tenure has coincided with Somerville’s transformation from working-class inner-ring city to high-cost haven for college-educated professionals.

Areas like Davis Square — dubbed one of the 15 hippest places in America six years before his election — have only continued to thrive with a mix of popular restaurants and other amenities. Assembly Square has seen an enormous development build-out, accompanied by the addition of an MBTA Orange Line stop. The planned extension of the Green Line through Somerville and Medford, which Curtatone has championed, has helped fuel a boom in Union Square. 

The 54-year-old Somerville native managed to successfully bridge the two factions that had long defined the compact city of 81,000 — its long-time working-class families, predominantly Irish and Italian, and the newcomers who have reshaped it recent decades, a mix of higher income professionals and immigrants. Fifty languages are spoken by families with children the city’s public schools.  

In 2016, Curtatone embraced the Black Lives Matter effort, hanging a banner in support of the movement at City Hall following protests in Ferguson, Missouri. He criticized those who welcome the disruption of sports championship parades but were quick to condemn protesters who sought to block traffic at the time on Interstate 93.

Many of our political leaders were quick to castigate them,” Curtatone wrote of the January 2016 demonstration in a CommonWealth op-ed. “Only days later, those same political leaders spoke at Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, never once noting the irony that they had just expressed outrage at the sort of protest in which Dr. King might have been involved. They should hate injustice more than inconvenience.”

Since the outbreak of the pandemic a year ago, he has been a forceful voice in support of strong measures to contain the virus, pushing early on for surveillance testing in schools and criticizing Gov. Charlie Baker for moving to reopen parts of the economy before he thought it was safe. 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Curtatone didn’t say what his plans are after leaving office. He has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, but gave no hint whether he’s considering a statewide run in 2022.

If he were to run, he would start out at a major disadvantage financially. He had $22,684 in his campaign account at the end of January, while other potential candidates have far more. Attorney General Maura Healey, who is believed to be considering a run, has $2.95 million in cash on hand.