Community development leader, small business owner, and Boston’s first Chief of Economic Development John Barros today announced his campaign for Mayor of Boston. A former community organizer and executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Barros made the announcement at Restaurante Cesaria, the neighborhood restaurant he has owned and operated for the past two decades.
“As a father of four young children, the future of Boston means everything to me. I’ve lived my entire life deeply rooted in our community as an activist, as a small business owner, and as a government official,” said Barros. “As Boston’s Chief of Economic Development, I changed the way that City Hall plans for growth and development. We’ve made a lot of progress, and now is the time to take our work further.”
“The next four years will be critical. I have a plan to bring our city back to life in a safe way – in a more equitable way,” he said. “We will confront racial injustice with honesty, courage, and compassion. We will make bold investments in community health, environmental justice, affordable housing and our children’s education and well-being. I’m ready to meet this moment, and I know Boston is ready to meet this moment too.”
Barros was joined by his wife Tchintcia, their four children, and campaign supporters.
“From his role as executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, to his service on the school committee, to his position as Chief of Economic Development in the Walsh administration, John has led by inclusion, by listening, by building alignment across differences, and most importantly with compassion and grace,” said Marianne Hughes, a long-time resident of Dorchester and former executive director of the Interaction Institute for Social Change. “John will bring a depth of experience and a unique capacity to mobilize all of Boston’s residents to meet the extraordinary challenges that we are facing in the coming years. He will lead all of us in our aspiration to build a beloved community and a resilient and equitable city.”
A lifelong resident of Boston, Barros’ parents emigrated from Cabo Verde to Boston, where he attended both public and Catholic schools. At age 14, he became a community organizer with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), the Roxbury and Dorchester-based community land trust. In 1991, he was the first youth elected to the DSNI Board of Directors.
“As a native son of Boston, John has dedicated his life to building a more equitable city where all can thrive. I am thrilled he’s entered the mayoral race and excited about the vision and innovative solutions he’ll put forward,” said community advocate Conan Harris. “John Barros is uniquely prepared to guide the City of Boston at this moment where we are in the middle of a multitude of pandemics. John will build a city where all can contribute and thrive.”
“Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. And during those days, Roxbury was really hurting. We dealt with violence and hard times. But there was also so much love in our neighborhood, our church and our community,” said Barros. “As a young Black man, I wanted to give back to the community that gave me everything. That’s why I became a community organizer when I was a teenager.”
John later served as executive director of DSNI/DNI, the largest urban community land trust in the country. He held that post for 13 years, during which time the organization made tremendous strides toward neighborhood revitalization and community wealth creation. Working with community partners, DSNI developed new community centers and created open spaces and parks. It opened schools, commercial property, and built permanently affordable housing.
“Together, we built affordable homes and protected families from displacement. We created parks and playgrounds. We invested in arts and culture, and built schools and community centers,” said Barros. “It showed me that change is possible when you put the needs of the community first. That’s how we need to look at the future of our entire city.”
In 2014, he was appointed as Boston’s first Chief of Economic Development, where he oversaw programs to help businesses grow while fostering economic inclusion and equity. Prior to that, John had served on the Boston School Committee for three years.
“At City Hall, we created real opportunities for women, people of color, immigrants, and veterans. We brought 140,000 new jobs to Boston, while also investing millions of dollars in job training for local residents,” said Barros. “Since day one of the pandemic, I’ve led the effort to save Boston’s small businesses. We’ve provided nearly $16 million of direct relief, and we’ve helped businesses access federal programs in order to survive while keeping workers and customers safe.”
John earned a Master of Public Policy from Tufts University and a B.A. in African/African-American Studies from Dartmouth College. He lives with his wife Tchintcia and their four children in Dorchester.