Following Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s announcement for the need to reconstruct the Boston Redevelopment Authority in January, Walsh appointed John Barros as chief of his Economic Development Cabinet.
As Economic Development Chief, Barros will oversee the BRA and will aid Walsh in supporting small businesses, promoting job growth and marketing Boston to the global economy. Walsh hopes to unite the Boston community through improved opportunities.
“John shares my belief that we have to do more than better organize our efforts — we have to ensure those efforts lead to more opportunities for all of Boston’s residents and business owners,” Walsh said in a Monday release. “Boston’s economy is in a good position, but we can do better. With John, our job creators, and our communities all working together, we will create more economic opportunities throughout our city and take Boston to the next level.”
In Walsh’s inauguration speech on Jan. 6, he announced the creation of the Boston Economic Development Authority, a new agency that consolidates a variety of economic development agencies in Boston, including BRA. BEDA will bring together all parts of city government that deal with economic development and job creation. Barros will oversee BEDA, creating an efficient way for agencies to work together in Boston’s redevelopment efforts.
Barros, a mayoral candidate in the Nov. 2013 election, endorsed Walsh in the final weeks before the election, forging a strong relationship between the two leaders.
“Excited to join Mayor @marty_walsh as the City’s new chief of economic development working to ensure everyone shares in Boston’s progress!” Barros tweeted Monday.
In 1991, at 17 years old, Barros was elected to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Board of Directors, becoming the first teenager to serve on the board. He later served as the Vice President of DSNI and of Dudley Neighbors, Inc.
At Dartmouth College, Barros studied economics and African/African-American studies. He interned at Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, where he continued to work full-time after graduation. In 2000, he became the interim Executive Director of DSNI, and after three months, he was appointed to the post permanently.
Over the past decade, Barros has received numerous awards from the Boston community, including the Action for Boston Community Development Roxbury Community Award in 2000, the Robert Leo Ruffin Award from the Archdiocese of Boston in 2004 and the Community Service Award from the Boston Day and Evening Academy in 2008.
Several residents said Barros’ job has a lot of potential and hope he will make visible improvements in Boston’s neighborhoods.
Joe Brown, 27, of Back Bay, said the economic development chief plays an important role in the city because he takes a piece of the workload from Walsh and helps redevelopment projects run efficiently.
“It’s important to delegate that side of running a city,” he said. “The mayor is more like a CEO, so he has to delegate down the business chain to the people underneath him, who then in turn, head up or specialize in different areas. It just allows things to be done more efficiently.”
Alice Cheng, 30, of Boston, said she hopes Barros improves redevelopment in the city and focuses on improving already existing structures, as well as creating new development projects.
“As it goes with any city, we want to make sure that what we have works,” she said. “We want to be proud of where we live. The streets, for example, in front of my building really need repair, so that’s great to hear that hopefully, at some point, these issues will be addressed. I want to be proud of where I live, so this is great to hear.”
Chloe Wornhan, 20, of Boston, said it is encouraging to see two leaders, who were previously opponents, work together for one common goal.
“It’s reassuring,” she said. “I actually worked for Mike Ross, who was also a candidate for Boston Mayor, so it’s good that they’re working together. It’s a little bit weird that they would work together because they may have some conflicting views, but it’s great that they can work together for the good of Boston.”