By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — When it comes to politics, Marcos A. Devers said he is resilient.
The city’s first appointed Hispanic mayor is making his third bid to be elected to the post. This time, his slogan is, “Change is needed and I will bring it.”
“Every day, I see this election as more important than ever, because Lawrence is a city without autonomy,” said Devers referring to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education naming Jeff Riley as superintendent/receiver of the city’s public schools and the appointment of Bob Nunes as overseer of the city’s finances. The overseer was mandated in legislation allowing the city to borrow as much as $35 million to balance its budget.
“We have less than half a mayor earning a full-time pay,” said Devers, 62, a Democrat who currently serves as a State Representative for the city. “His duties have been reduced and his salary should be as well and that would apply to me if I’m elected.”
Devers is challenging Mayor William Lantigua who is running for re-election to a second term. Other challengers are City Council Vice President Daniel Rivera, accountant Nestor DeJesus, local firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez and inventor James O’Donoghue.
This is not the first time Devers faces Lantigua in a political race.
Lantigua defeated Devers in his re-election to the 16th Essex House seat in 2006 and 2008. Devers lost again to Lantigua in the 2009 mayoral race, finishing third in the preliminary election. Though Devers and Lantigua are fierce political rivals, Lantigua did support Devers’ campaign in the 2010 special election to fill his House seat after he resigned.
Devers said he is running for mayor because the city needs new leadership.
“I want to see our city take back its autonomy from the state,” he said.
Devers believes Riley is “doing a good job” restructuring the school system.
“Our children should be our priority which is why one of my main focuses is education, along with sports and the arts for a well-rounded student so they will go on to college and achieve the American dream for them and their children.”
Devers said he will also work with Cambridge College and Northern Essex Community College. The latter is expanding its campus downtown by building a $27.4 million El Hefni Health and Technology Center. It will house the majority of the college’s 18 health care associate degrees and certificates, including respiratory care, sleep technology, and nursing programs.
“I’ll work with all secondary education institutions and provide them with anything they need so they can educate our youth and adults and fortify the city’s labor force,” he said.
Devers said he wants to strengthen the Recreation Department to offer children more after school and summer programs and look for funding for teenagers to get jobs.
Also important, Devers said is changing the city’s image and one way of doing that is by revitalizing the gateway project and streets such as Union, Broadway and Essex.
“I don’t want people to just see Lawrence while driving through 495 or 93, I want them to drive through the city and experience the culture, history and flavor that we have to offer,” he said.
On that same vain, if elected mayor, Devers says neighborhood associations will be vital resources to help point out areas where gang and other illegal activities take place.
“One of my first steps as mayor will be to meet with leaders of the neighborhood associations to work with them in coordinating programs, safety and beautifying the areas.”
One component of his campaign is Youth for Marcos, a group of 300 young adults supporting Devers’ bid for mayor. Susana Veras said many of the members are former students of Devers from his days at Greater Lawrence Technical High School in Andover. Others have been recruited after talking to them about Devers’ plans.
“We are getting more joining as we explain to them the plans he has for the city and its residents,” Veras said.
Jonathan Pichardo, who had Devers as algebra teacher, was holding signs at Jackson and Berkeley streets along with his children, Channelle and John Rosario.
“His focus on education is the reason why I’m here,” Pichardo said. “The direction the city is going is not where I want my children growing up in. He has a great vision for Lawrence and wants to make the city better.”
Bio in Brief Born in the Dominican Republic, Devers immigrated to Puerto Rico in 1982. He moved to Lawrence in 1987. Education: Received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Universidad Autonoma De Santo Domingo, Salem State University and took graduate courses at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Work experience: Founder and chief executive officer of MDJ, an engineering firm. He had engineering training in Tokyo and Remote Sensing Training in Rome. He taught science at Lawrence High School and math at Greater Lawrence Technical School for 16 years. Political experience: State Rep. since 2010 where he has served as vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities; the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and the Joint Committee on Education. He was a City Councilor At Large from 2000 to 2002, serving as vice president; he was reelected City Councilor At Large, 2004-2006. He was Council President in 2002-2004. Devers was Lawrence's first Hispanic mayor when he became Interim Mayor from September to November 2001 after then-Mayor Patricia Dowling resigned to become a judge. Family: Devers' wife Victoria is a retired school teacher. They have four children and four grandchildren.