New MassDevelopment chief says mayoral experience a plus

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Daniel Rivera, the new president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, expects to draw on his seven years of experience as Lawrence mayor.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to hone my focus on economic development, especially during these trying times,” Rivera said after the board of directors at MassDevelopment, the commonwealth’s finance and development agency, named him to succeed Lauren Liss.

Liss will step down at the end of the calendar year after three years in charge.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to hone my focus on economic development," Daniel Rivera said.

Rivera, elected in 2013 and re-elected four years later, managed a $341 million operating budget and a $92 million capital improvement plan in 81,000-population Lawrence, 30 miles north of Boston, Rivera led efforts to invest in infrastructure and attract private development, while also overseeing the creation of more than 2,400 units of both affordable and market-rate housing.

His resignation from City Hall will take effect Jan 8, after which the City Council must hold a special election within 90 days. The upcoming year would have been the last of Rivera’s second term.

Rivera led the city through the Merrimack Valley natural gas disaster in September 2018. A series of explosions in the region killed one person, injured 22 others and damaged roughly 130 homes and businesses. Columbia Gas, the company that pleaded guilty in connection with the explosions, agreed in July to pay $56 million and its parent company, NiSource, sold Columbia to Eversource Energy in October.

The federal spending package Congress passed on Monday includes pipeline safety legislation aimed at improved emergency response coordination and better monitoring of system pressure, among other measures. The Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act is named after an 18-year-old who died in the explosion.

“Dan Rivera is no stranger to MassDevelopment’s programs, having masterfully utilized many to the benefit of the residents of Lawrence, one of our commonwealth’s diverse and rising gateway cities,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, who chairs MassDevelopment’s board.

Rivera, a Democrat but also a political ally of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, was a member of Baker’s reopening advisory board, tasked with developing the commonwealth’s strategy to reopen the economy during the coronavirus, and the COVID-19 vaccine advisory group.

In 2017, Baker tapped Rivera for the nascent Latino Advisory Commission.

Rivera, a U.S. Army veteran, holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master’s in business administration from Suffolk University.

Born in New York, Rivera grew up in Lawrence, where his single mother relocated to work in the area mills after emigrating from the Dominican Republic.

Under Liss, MassDevelopment expanded its work in gateway cities through finance programs and real estate services such as the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) and Commonwealth Places program, and oversaw growth at Devens, MassDevelopment’s mixed-use redevelopment of the former Fort Devens.

This year, in response to the pandemic, MassDevelopment pivoted programs and tools to support small businesses in some of the state’s hardest-hit communities and to aid in economic recovery.

During fiscal 2020, MassDevelopment financed or managed 341 projects generating investment of more than $2.69 billion.

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