Saturday, May 18, 2024


Mayor Henrietta Davis is not running for reelection, she said in a letter today to constituents:

It is not easy to make the decision to leave behind being a Cambridge city councillor, a job I have loved, but after eight years on the school committee and 18 years on the City Council – 26 years in all – I’ve decided not to seek reelection. Thank you to my colleagues – past and present – and to the people of Cambridge for supporting me all of these years.

This recent term as mayor has been especially gratifying. Despite the obvious challenges, there were many great days and opportunities to make a difference and to continue the mission of making Cambridge a better place.

I’m not planning to leave all the issues behind – I’ll still be fighting for equity and opportunity for all Cambridge citizens (especially young people), and making sure Cambridge continues to become a model for a healthy, sustainable city and a community that is welcoming and supportive to all our residents.

But after 13 successful elections I’m putting away my yard signs and leaving the campaign events to others.

I will miss walking up and down our beautiful streets and the face-to-face meetings with Cambridge residents at their homes and hearing their ideas and concerns.

I’m grateful to the voters of Cambridge who have given me the opportunity to serve, to have a career through which I could follow my passion, and make a difference locally and beyond. With six more months as mayor, I look forward to serving the rest of the term, fully engaged. There’s a lot left to do this year. Then, the time will come to head in a new direction. Thank you Cambridge for what will be 26 great years.

The move had been rumored, as politics watchers noted she hadn’t been raising money for a run for office in November. The conjectures went further: That after a two-month, 10-ballot standoff on election of a mayor at the start of the current term, city councillors agreed on giving Davis a mayoral term as a swan song to her career in elected office – and one that boosts her salary, according to the city’s Personnel Department on Monday, to $112,293 this year from the councillors’ pay of $75,196, giving her pension a basis bump of two higher-paying years; and that she would spend the term grooming aide Matt Nelson for his second run at office.

It opens up the council race considerably, making for two incumbents who will not be running again; having been elected state representative in 2011, Marjorie Decker announced this would be her last term on the council. The slate of challengers for the nine council seats is already large, making a likely field of 22 candidates in all, according to the Cambridge Civic Journal website. Nomination papers became available July 1 and are due by the end of the month.

“Much gratitude to Mayor Henrietta Davis for 26 years of remarkable service in Cambridge. Your good nature will be missed,” resident and School Committee candidate Fran Cronin tweeted Monday.


Davis graduated from Boston College in 1972 with a degree in social work, according to her official biography, and was soon employed as a neighborhood planner for the City of Cambridge as well as doing freelance journalist for National Public Radio, Time Inc. and others. In 1982, she left journalism and became an administrator at the Agassiz Preschool. Five years later she was elected to the School Committee for the first of four terms, “during which her proudest accomplishments were science curriculum improvements and AIDS prevention efforts,” before election to the City council in 1995.

In 1997, she graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a master’s degree in Public Administration.

Davis is married to Richard Bock and has two sons. The biography lists her hobbies as including kayaking, canoeing, and watercolor painting.

Accomplishments and controversies

The interest in science displayed during her time as a School Committee member endured into her term as mayor. In February she traveled to the Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., to attend a meeting with Office of Science and Technology Policy officials looking to including Cambridge in “closing what we used to call the digital divide and promoting technology inclusion.”

It happened because Davis was in the “right place at the right time,” namely at a National League of Cities meeting with the right White House official. “I flung my business card at him,” Davis said at a meeting of the School Committee. “And I said, ‘How about us?’”

In May, she signed a Community Compact for a Sustainable Future with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to tackle climate change.

“Climate change is a crisis that requires a comprehensive and collaborative response. Cambridge is uniquely positioned to serve as a leader in this response: We have unmatched intellectual capital and a culture of innovation and commitment to the environment. I was thrilled to partner with Harvard and MIT to create the Compact, and now we have an all-star line up of top companies doing business here in Cambridge. These businesses take sustainability seriously in their workplaces and have now joined us to create the mechanisms that will make a more sustainable Cambridge for all residents, students and employees,” Davis said in a press release, referring to businesses including Akamai, Boston Properties, the Cambridge Innovation Center, Draper Laboratories, Novartis, Twining Properties and Whole Foods.

Her term has seen a winding down of the K2C2 process looking at the future of Kendall and Central squares and major project zoning approved for each: a 246,716-square-foot building at 300 Massachusetts Ave. near Central Square to be built by Forest City for MIT that was to be occupied by Millennium Pharmaceuticals and ground-floor retail; and a proposal by the institute to remake 26 acres of its East Campus in Kendall Square.

Her time in office has not been without controversies and complications, though, starting with an inability to rein in dysfunction among councillors and ongoing efforts to run meetings properly that are as distracting as they are helpful. Davis’ council was also reprimanded for violating open meeting laws, rushed into a deal to give away much of a public garden, failed the goal it set itself for a short-term city manager search, let community space in Kendall Square go without a plan for more than a year and a half and let major development go through with a legal loophole even after it was pointed out to them, among others. Here are 10 ways the council embarrassed itself during Davis’ term as mayor.