EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 14, 2010

Devers seeks to replace Lantigua in state Legislature

Planning Board chief considering a run

LAWRENCE — Before William Lantigua, there was Marcos Devers.

While Lantigua is the first elected Latino mayor of Lawrence, Devers was the first Latino to occupy the office — serving as interim mayor from September to November 2001.

Devers, 59, was chosen by the City Council, not the citizenry. But now he is asking residents to pick him to succeed Lantigua in the state House of Representatives.

Lantigua, who was elected mayor on Nov. 3, resigned his seat as state representative Friday amid mounting pressure to quit one of his two jobs. He had served in the Legislature since 2003 and held that job and the job of mayor simultaneously for 40 days.

Lantigua sparked an ovation when he endorsed Devers at City Hall on Friday evening.

"I want to serve the city and serve the district and be part of changes we need to bring to Lawrence," Devers said during an interview yesterday.

The district — the Sixteenth Essex — covers the city's north side. So far, Devers is the only candidate to announce a bid.

However, Planning Board Chairwoman Lesly Melendez said she is "looking at it very closely."

"I have to, obviously, have a discussion with my family, but it is a definite consideration on my part," she said.

Born and raised in Lawrence, the 37-year-old is a facilities coordinator for Comcast. She helped run former City Councilor David Abdoo's mayoral campaign last fall.

Melendez's uncle used to be married to Isabel Melendez, a longtime Lantigua supporter who is a program director of the Community Service Center of Greater Lawrence Community Action Council.

Lesly Melendez has never held elected office, and she is not a member of a political party, she said.

Like Lantigua, Devers is a Democrat. Dian Kneeland, chairwoman of the Lawrence Democratic City Committee, said she hasn't yet heard of anyone else who will run. She called Devers an "excellent" choice.

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