, Newburyport, MA


February 15, 2013

Lawler's work for downtown, industrial park should not be forgotten

It was on an evening oh so long ago when George H. Lawler Jr., whose death came early this week, had once asked the people of Newburyport to give him a chance to be helpful as mayor.

It came on Candidates Night of a half century ago, and that after his having served some 12 years as a City Council member. The earliest testing of his abilities was when then- Mayor Albert H. Zabriskie was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives before his term had expired and called upon Lawler to serve as liaison to the council in his absence.

That had given Lawler a leg up on his run for mayor, so his pre-election remarks were more of a report than a bold assertion on that candidates’ night.

Newburyport was on the cusp of change, and George Lawler was ready to make his stand as mayor.

He did that with exceptional diligence, persuasion and bonding, not the least of which was with Byron J. Mathews, then council president, as well as those at the Historical Society of Old Newbury who were determined to save the downtown from a federal wrecking ball.

I was pleased to read the detail of the heart of that historic struggle in Wednesday’s Daily News’ account of his passing, and it reminded me of his history-making support of the industrial park as well.

Born of an effort by the private sector but strongly supported by those in city government, it became the parallel initiative of the city’s mid-century evolution.

That resulted in an extraordinary agreement.

The public drive to purchase land for the industrial park was proving successful, and the time had come to find and fund the cost of professional director to attract industry. Foremost among candidates was Earl R. Cook, then employed in Toledo, Ohio.

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