Lowell finds itself in the position that it has not been in since 2004 – choosing a suitable City Solicitor. I will assert here that a suitable hire will be a person that is prepared to make a positive impact. Since Lowell has changed to Neighborhood Representation, with 11 City Councilors (3 at-large & 8 District Councilors), the days of complacency are over.
Lowell is on the cusp of blossoming into its fullness. The City Manager has the duty to cultivate this transition. The candidate selected as the City Solicitor will have a disproportionate influence on Lowell’s future. I state that as truth because what’s past is prologue. The next City Solicitor will persist well beyond our current City Manager and likely the next few.
Let’s start with the basics. From the City Ordinance (§ 50-7) states:
“It shall be the duty of the City Solicitor to draft all bonds, contracts, deeds, leases, obligations, conveyances and other legal instruments which may be required of him by any ordinance or order of the City Council or by any committee of the City Council; to commence and prosecute all suits brought by order of the City or on account of any estate, claims, rights, privileges or demand of the City; to appear before any court in this commonwealth in defense of all actions or suits against the City or its officers in their official capacity, wherein the rights, estate, privileges, ordinances or acts of the City, or breach of any ordinance, may be brought in question; to try and argue any and all causes in which the City shall be a party before any legal tribunal; and to do every professional act which may be required of him by the City Council, the Mayor or any committee of the City Council or by any order or rule of the City Council.”
(Note: Oddly there is no mention of the City Solicitor being qualified to practice law in the Commonwealth. Not that I saw in the ordinance anyways.)
Some lesser duties and responsibilities are also described. You can poke around yourself if you like. Here is the link: https://ecode360.com/8183062#8183062
The ordinance uses very succinct language. It reads dry but you should know that each word describes conditions in which the Will of the City is brokered with internal and external partners, all in accordance with Massachusetts General Law (M.G.L.). Between the lines of legal text, we will find the culture of City Hall. Obviously, the M.G.L. lays out in statute what can not happen. Therefore, it follows what is not prohibited is potentially allowed. The City will develop policy to make its intentions and strategies clearer. Influential corporate consultant, Peter Drucker, famously stated that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Such a realization would compel a reasonable person to acknowledge how the City Solicitor has due influence on City Hall culture. An influence that will lay, like a skeleton, under the muscle of any City Manager.
Let’s consider what I earlier call “internal partners.” These, for the most part, are the good folks that work for the City of Lowell: blue collar and white collar, unionized and ordinance. The City Solicitor has an influence – if not a direct hand in – labor contract negotiations to include the potential follow-on side letters of agreement, grievance review hearings, & disciplinary hearings. Any policy, from hiring practices to changing HVAC filters, will feel the shadow of the City Solicitor, as day-to-day operations march on.
I’ve said all that in order to say this: all eyes should be on City Manager Golden, as the process for selection of Lowell’s next City Solicitor plays out. (I personally think he welcomes the scrutiny. Please just don’t breathe down his neck, like the DEI Consortium opts to do.)
You may or may not have a person in your mind’s eye for who should be Lowell’s next City Solicitor. I do not! I am envisioning a silhouette, a type of person for the job. City Manager Golden spent years on Beacon Hill. The cynical and jaded can scoff at Boston. They wouldn’t be 100% wrong in doing so. With that admitted, the culture that runs Boston’s political system is easily a decade ahead of Lowell’s, if not two. Golden has seen what works in Boston and what does not. The City Council picked him to tap into that experience.
I’m hoping that City Manager Golden uses the wisdom he has acquired from various mentors and life lessons afforded to him since his early days stumbling in the State House. I’m hoping he sees with stark clarity the good he can do for the City he loves by deeply considering his intentions. I hope his intentions are virtuous enough to hold Lowell over for up to 18 years. Maybe more? Maybe less?
The City will persist. Tipa’s choice can be the push Lowell needs towards prosperity.