As a grade school and high school student, Mayor Fiorentini worked in his grandparent’s restaurant and in other restaurants as dishwasher and short order cook. He then worked his way through college and law school driving a taxi for the Checker Taxi Company in Boston as a union cab driver.
James Fiorentini graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts in 1969 with a degree in Political Science. After college, he became a VISTA Volunteer (Vista is the domestic version of the Peace Corps) in Waterloo, Iowa where he lived and worked in the poorest areas of the city.
He attended Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts, where he graduated in 1973 and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1974. He was later admitted to the New Hampshire Bar, and was the top finisher in the State of New Hampshire on the interstate portion of the bar examination.
Attorney Fiorentini was appointed by District Attorney Kevin Burke as an Assistant District Attorney and prosecutor in the Haverhill District Court. He also served as a Special Assistant Attorney General, appointed by Attorneys General Francis X. Bellotti and Robert Quinn.
In his legal career, Mayor Fiorentini represented labor unions and gained experience in labor law, criminal law, worker’s compensation and personal injury law. While he practiced law, he stayed involved in his community serving as Chairperson of the Haverhill High School Site Council where he led the fight to fix Haverhill High School. He also served as Chairperson of the Community Action Commission and served on the Salvation Army Board of Directors.
In 1995, James Fiorentini saw an opportunity to become more involved in his community and ran for a seat on the Haverhill City Council, a seat which he won. In his time on the city council, he stressed adequate funding for public education, worked hard to fix Haverhill High School, and worked to expose wrong doings of the company which ran the local municipal hospital. Ultimately, the city sued that company and recovered over $3 million in damages.
In 2003, James Fiorentini ran for Mayor and was elected with over 55% of the vote. In his campaign, he stressed his vision to put abandoned shoe factories back onto the tax rolls and increase the city’s tax base.
Upon his election, Mayor Fiorentini wasted no time in fulfilling his pledge to bring about a downtown renaissance in Haverhill. He successfully rezoned the area of downtown that contained the abandoned shoe factories, and scheduled a developer’s conference that succeeded in bringing national development firms to the city. Haverhill became the first city in the State to take advantage of a new zoning law—the law is called Chapter 40R—that gave incentives to encourage transit oriented development.
In 2005, Mayor Fiorentini was re-elected for a second term by 81% of voters, believed to be the largest majority in the history of Mayoral elections in the city.
He continued to work on redeveloping downtown, and attracted a national firm, Forest City, to redevelop the abandoned Hamel Leather Factory. Hamel Leather had once been the largest concrete shoe factory in the world, but had been largely abandoned for nearly half a century. Under Mayor Fiorentini’s leadership, the abandoned Hamel Leather Factory became Hamel Mills Lofts. At $70 million, Hamel Mills Lofts is the largest investment in the history of the city.
Mayor Fiorentini has been re-elected five times since then, in 2007 , 2009, 2011 and 2013 and is the longest serving Mayor in the history of the city.
Mayor Fiorentini successfully obtained funding for the river walk project, which had been dormant for over 14 years, and led the city in constructing a river walk downtown.
The City of Haverhill had been talking about downtown parking facility for nearly 30 years. Mayor Fiorentini traveled to Washington DC, and successfully lobbied our Congressional delegation to obtain $11 million in funding for the garage which is open downtown.
The Mayor was also determined to bring more retail stores to the city and led the city in rezoning areas of the city nearest to highways to attract more retail stores. The project successfully attracted the three largest retailers ever to come to the city, BJ’s, Target and Lowe’s.
For his efforts, Mayor Fiorentini was elected as the Chairperson of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Brownfield’s Association. He has been selected three times to speak at the Kennedy School at Harvard on what has become known as the “Haverhill Renaissance,” and was recently featured in a State wide television show Chronicle. In 2014, Mayor Fiorentini was chosen by his collegues to be President of MMaA.
Mayor Fiorentini has worked to improve the delivery of services and quality of life in every neighborhood in the city. He has greatly expanded street sweeping operations in the city, and has improved numerous parks and playgrounds in the city. Under Mayor Fiorentini’s leadership, Haverhill became one of the first cities in the area to institute curbside single stream recycling and has improved its recycling rate by nearly 50%. In 2010, the Haverhill Gazette referred to Mayor Fiorentini as “the Green Mayor” because of his efforts to improve recycling and protect the environment.
Mayor Fiorentini has been married to Martha Fiorentini since 1977; they have 3 children, James, Regina and Chrissy.