Former Fall River mayors deny claim the position is only ceremonial

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FALL RIVER – After an internal memo surfaced last week in which mayoral candidate and chairman of the city council Cliff Ponte described the mayor’s job as “ceremonial,” former mayors say the work is practical, global and most certainly full time. .

For Carlton Viveiros, the city’s longest-serving mayor, the post of mayor of Fall River is absolutely “a 24/7 job.”

“Whether it is the politics of governing or the business of governing, you have internal responsibility for all aspects of the city of Fall River,” Viveiros said, noting that the mayor is not just the CEO. of the city, but also the president of the school committee. “All aspects of local government are the responsibility of the mayor. ”

And despite the challenges – Viveiros has faced at least four major fires during his tenure, including the devastating fire at Notre Dame Church – Viveiros said it was also gratifying.

“Every time you are the chief executive, whether it’s a city mayor, a city administrator or the governor of Massachusetts, you have an impact on the daily lives of the people you serve. ”

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Viveiros, who served as mayor from 1978 to 1990 as the city’s 38th mayor, said he believed Ponte’s portrayal that the work was ceremonial “is out of place.”

“Encompassing” is how the city’s 39th mayor, John Mitchell, described the job of mayor.

“I can’t remember a vacation that went uninterrupted,” Mitchell said.

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With the city’s style of government being a strong mayor and a weak city council, Mitchell said it is enough to look at the city charter, which dictates the mayor’s responsibilities.

“The mayor is responsible for almost everything,” Mitchell said. “It takes all of your time and attention, but it’s a great job because it allows you to make changes. ”

“It’s absolutely full-time, 24 hours a day,” said Edward Lambert, who was from 1996 to 2007 the 40th mayor of Fall River. “At the end of the day, it’s the mayor who makes the decisions.

Lambert said running a gateway city like Fall River – mid-sized urban centers so named to provide residents with a gateway to the American Dream – “is probably one of the toughest jobs in America.”

“I remember countless phone calls in the middle of the night,” Lambert said. “But when you are the leader of your city, there is no greater honor.”

The city’s 42nd mayor, Will Flanagan, joked that the position of mayor of Fall River “is an eight-day-a-week job.”

“In fact, as mayor, I made many personal, personal and professional sacrifices and also with my family, because every hour I spent at work was an hour less than I had to do other things in my life. life, like family time, ”said Flanagan.

“Being the mayor of Fall River, it works for 90,000 people,” said Flanagan, who served from 2010 to 2014.

Viveiros, Mitchell and Lambert admitted that their families also made sacrifices during their tenure as mayor.

Lambert said it was a family decision before showing up.

“But it’s not just the mayor who gives his time. I remember countless nights and weekends when there were changes in family plans, ”Lambert said.

Former mayor Sam Sutter declined to be interviewed for this story.

Jo C. Goode can be contacted at jgoode@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!

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