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October 2020

Robert F. Sullivan ’96 is a lifelong resident and the Mayor of the City of Brockton, Massachusetts, which is currently in the midst of battling the COVID-19 health pandemic.

Tell me about your path from New England Law to becoming the Mayor of Brockton.

After New England Law, I worked in Boston for a telecommunications company drafting license and contract agreements and handling real estate matters. I then attended Boston College to obtain my MBA degree (’01). Eventually, I opened up a solo practice in the City of Brockton, MA where I was born and raised. For five years (2009–2014), I was the in-house town attorney for Randolph, MA and I also served on two occasions as an attorney at the Massachusetts State House.

Politics, civics, and public service were always of interest to me. My father, Robert E. Sullivan, was a history teacher at Brockton High School. As a youth, I volunteered on many local and state elections. I attended Boston College and received my political science degree (’92). During my undergraduate years, I interned in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. House of Representatives and in Boston at the MA State House. I always had a strong desire to give back to the community of Brockton. In 2005, I ran for City Council and I was elected as city-wide Councilor-At-Large, serving all 7 wards and 28 precincts. After serving as a City Councilor for 14 years, I decided to run for the office of Mayor. On November 5th, 2019, I prevailed in the general election and was elected the 50th Mayor of the City of Brockton.

What sticks out when you look back on your time at New England Law?

The relationships that I built during my time at New England Law were really part of what made the experience so wonderful. Those friendships have been and continue to be extremely important to me both personally and professionally. In fact, many of my friends and classmates at New England have helped out on my numerous political campaigns over the years. 

The legal education and excellent professors at New England provided me with a sound foundation to be an effective advocate and elected official. I still use the legal principles and concepts taught to me at New England Law on a daily basis. 

How has your legal education influenced your work in politics thus far?

Through my career, I have utilized both my law and business degrees. During my time as a City Councilor, I drafted local ordinances that have enhanced the lives of City residents and business owners. Now as the Mayor, I use my legal and business training in dealing with budgets, contracts, negotiating, and anything else that is thrown my way. Whether you are a lawyer working for your client or a Mayor preparing a $400 million city budget, you must work hard, stay positive, and collaborate with others to achieve the desired end result. 

How have you balanced the needs of your community through this pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an emotional, physical, and economic impact on my community with over 280 deaths and 4,700 cases. As Mayor, my job is to provide residents and business owners with assistance, resources, and services. I have worked diligently with other local, state, and federal elected officials to increase our testing capabilities, provide PPEs, and develop strategies to minimize the spread of this deadly virus.  

As a mayor, husband, and dad to three children, I fully understand and appreciate that there is a lot of uncertainty, disappointment, and fear caused by COVID-19. Thus, it has been important to keep everyone informed and updated through social media, the City’s website, and our daily COVID-19 dashboard. Brockton is a very diverse community and we have utilized multi-language informational endeavors to educate and reiterate the importance of following the health guidelines and standards.

In addition, I have used executive orders to create mandatory curfews and closures of City-owned parks and playgrounds in an effort to protect the general welfare of the residents. These legal mechanisms have been important efforts to attempt to minimize the spread of the virus.

Lastly, I have worked to increase funding and financial assistance, and have instituted a fundraising campaign called the “Brockton Together Fund” to assist our residents and businesses.

What advice do you have for someone starting out in politics?

In politics, you will win some elections and you will lose some elections. Always remember to treat people with respect, be an advocate for the constituents that you serve, and continue to “add to your base, do not subtract from it.”