HAVERHILL — The late Theodore A. Pelosi Jr., Haverhill’s mayor for six years and a city councilor for two decades before that, is the gold standard for city government and local politics, according to city councilors and four former mayors.
The council’s City Hall meeting room was named the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers in a ceremony last night attended by friends and family of the late mayor, who died in March 2012 at age 85.
Pelosi, a political icon and lifelong resident who graduated from Haverhill High School in 1944, was a fixture in local government in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. He was the city’s first Italian-American mayor, the first mayor to serve three consecutive terms and the longest council president in Haverhill’s history.
The council approved Mayor James Fiorentini’s proposal to name its chambers after Pelosi in September, but put off the ceremony until last night.
Fiorentini, most city councilors and four former mayors attended the ceremony, recalling their memories of Pelosi and telling stories about his long political career.
After they spoke, the meeting moved to the hallway outside the chambers where Pelosi’s wife Patricia unveiled a photograph of her husband.
“He spent many years and energy to serve the people of Haverhill and he loved every minute of it,” Patricia Pelosi said of her husband of 60 years. ‘I’m sure he’s looking down on us tonight and smiling.”
Joining Patricia Pelosi were the Pelosis’ daughters Felice and her husband Peter Beil; Claudia and her husband Peter Cuddy; and their son Andrew and his wife Allison. The Pelosis’ other son Francis and his wife Dorothy live in Florida and were unable to make it to last night’s ceremony.
Also attending the ceremony were former Haverhill mayors John Guerin, James Rurak, William Ryan and James Waldron.
“No one ever had the city’s best interest in mind more than Ted Pelosi,” Rurak said.
Ryan said he ran against Pelosi twice, winning once and losing once.
“He was a terrific person and the sharpest dresser,” Ryan said. “Ted was always very involved in the city and his word was his bond. If he told you he was on your side, you could count on him. But his first obligation was always to the people and the city. He was wicked friendly, but he was no political slouch either.”
Guerin and veteran councilors Robert Scatamacchia, William Macek and John Michitson said they grew up listening to Pelosi and that he inspired them to run for elected office.
“He was the embodiment of integrity,” said Guerin, who served with Pelosi as a freshman councilor. “He showed me that you can go through the raucousness of politics and still have integrity. I can’t think of a more appropriate tribute to Mayor Pelosi than to name the council chambers after him. He’s the gold standard of Haverhill city government.”
Michitson said councilors of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s were his heroes growing up.
“And Ted was the leader of the pack,” Michitson said. “And because of it, Haverhill is a much better place today.”
Councilor Mayor Ellen Daly O’Brien said Pelosi also set the standard for civility among councilors.
“He set the example of how we can all get along to get things done,” Daly O’Brien said.
Pelosi also served the city for many years after he retired from elected politics. At various times he was on the Council of Aging board, the Bradford Historic Commission and other committees.
A veteran of the Navy who achieved the rank of lieutenant, Pelosi worked for Western Electric for 30 years, retiring in 1982 as a quality control engineer.
“Mayor Pelosi was a great American, a great mayor and a great city council president,” Fiorentini said.