, Newburyport, MA

September 9, 2007

Synergy brought mayor, NRA head together

Angeljean Chiaramida

Writing a profile of Jack Bradshaw, the man who ran the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority during its busiest years, is impossible without looking at the impact Byron Matthews made on his life and work.

The men met in Matthews' family grocery store when Bradshaw first fulfilled his dream of making Newburyport his family home after college, a stint in the service and marriage.

The men meshed and when Matthews first ran for mayor in 1967, he tapped Bradshaw to help with the campaign. When he won, he picked Bradshaw for the short-lived, five-month job as his administrative assistant.

But when Matthews started to pick his people to place on the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, Ed Dodge got the first appointment in 1968 and Bradshaw was next in 1969. Matthews would later bring Bradshaw to work with him in state government after the late Gov. Edward King appointed Matthews as secretary of communities and development in 1979.

"I saw that he was a young guy who showed a real interest in the city," Matthews said. "He was a natural. We saw eye to eye on many things. He was a doer. He was goal-oriented and focused on getting things done. He's a team player."

"Jack learned from the Byron Matthews school of public service about the public process," said Dick Passeri, an NRA assistant director who worked for Bradshaw. "Byron's way was you kept on it, you kept on it, you kept on it. You weren't going to get the whole pear in one bite, but you just kept going until you got everything you needed. Byron and Jack had synergy."

Bradshaw said his tour of duty with the military taught him to be goal-oriented: "If the commanding officer gave me something to do, I knew I didn't want him to come back and find it hadn't been done. I saw men demoted and promoted on the basis of getting things accomplished."

But Bradshaw is emphatic. When it came to learning how to get things done, he learned from watching Matthews.

"Byron didn't sit around and wait for things to happen," Bradshaw said. "If he needed something from Washington, he went to Washington. And Byron never took 'no' for an answer. I learned from watching him. He was just a great model, and I see him as the person responsible for much of what we accomplished. He didn't pull the strings, but if we needed something to get things done, Byron is the one who'd move mountains to get what we needed."

The NRA team

Aside from crediting Matthews, when asked how he and the NRA members finally overcame years of frustrating waiting and got so much done between 1973 and 1978, Bradshaw answered: "teamwork."

"I had a great team to work with. The staff I worked with were able to handle the administrative stuff in the office, and I was able to go out and talk with the wonderful people of Newburyport," Bradshaw said. "And the NRA members were just terrific, Joan (Burke), Ed (Dodge), Charlie (Foley), all of them."

When he first took over as director, Bradshaw began putting together the NRA staffers who never ceased to keep the ball rolling forward, he said. He first hired Jim Carey as assistant director.

Carey had worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which controlled Newburyport's urban renewal project. He could write the grants and maneuver through the maze of federal bureaucracy with ease and he knew real estate, Bradshaw said.

Lee Guerney was the team member with a specialty in historic preservation. When Carey left after a couple of years, Dick Passeri took his place. With similar talents as Carey, Passeri was also able to navigate the changes in the federal grant system | namely the Community Development Block Grant process.

Together, the NRA board and staff were able to go forward and hold the line in spite of attempts to halt the momentum by those | like the Friends of the Waterfront | who wanted to redirect it.

According to Carey, the desire to move forward was also found in most of the community members he came in touch with during his years with the NRA.

"When we went around talking with people, they wanted things to get going," Carey said. "They wanted the plan that was previously drawn up implemented. They didn't want to wait. We were in a very driven environment. There was a need to get projects built."

At the NRA, "we were doing cutting edge work," Carey said, for historic preservation was still untested. And with the new environmental laws that were just coming into play, the Friends had sophisticated attorneys who knew how to use those laws to hold things up and try to move things in the direction they wanted, he said.

"Jack's key skill was he learned to work in that environment and got things done anyway," Carey said.

"He has enormous skill working with people," Passeri said. "He was able to iron out problems and resolve issues to make things happen."

Bradshaw's sweetest days

At the end of his tenure, in 1978, when Bradshaw left for a job in Lawrence, he did so with satisfaction. He didn't go with a feeling he'd left work at the NRA unfinished. The redevelopment of the original 22 acres was pretty much complete, he said, except for parcel 8 and the waterfront. The latter is still unfinished.

Looking back, Bradshaw has no animosity toward any of his critics or those who he may have rubbed the wrong way in his drive to get things done.

His memories of those years are of a good team spirit with NRA members and staff, the City Council and Matthews, with state and federal authorities, developers, architects, consultants and "the wonderful people of Newburyport," with whom he worked to bring about what he thinkss was very positive and much needed change.

"Every time I sit by the waterfront, I think of what the place was like before | covered with rats and derelict buildings | and how wonderful it is to be able to just sit there now and enjoy it," Bradshaw said. "When I walk down State Street, I remember every brick | whether on the ground or in a building. Every building has a story; every square inch. I remember every nook and cranny.

"I remember while I was at the NRA someone told me that when I got older and I looked back at my years with the NRA that I'd see them as the sweetest years of my career. As I look back now, I know they were."