Mayor of New Bedford
Taking office in January 2012, Jon Mitchell is New Bedford’s thirty-eighth mayor. In November 2013, he was the city’s first sitting mayor since 1866 not to be opposed for re-election, and has won reelection two more times by decisive margins.
As mayor, Jon has sought to re-establish New Bedford as one of the leading cities in the Northeast. He has moved aggressively to reform the city’s schools, modernize the port, solidify the downtown as the economic and cultural center of Southeastern Massachusetts, and to elevate the quality of life in every neighborhood.
Jon has made city government more efficient though effective management practices, and now the city has the highest bond rating in its history. His work in economic development has emphasized careful planning, collaboration with the business community, and the need to exploit the city’s major assets. The approach has paid off with thousands of new jobs, and a drop in unemployment that led all U.S. cities in 2016. These efforts have been complemented by reforms in the city’s schools, where the dropout rate is now at a fifteen year low and test scores have risen steadily. And neighborhood quality of life is markedly better with a sharp drop in crime, the construction of five new parks along with the HarborWalk and CoveWalk, and the establishment of the state’s first municipal arts fund.
Under Mayor Mitchell’s leadership, New Bedford also has emerged as one of America’s greenest cities. Among other initiatives, the city also has doubled its recycling rate by modernizing its trash collection system, replaced over 10,000 street lights with LED bulbs, retrofitted dozens of city buildings with energy efficient features, and has Massachusetts’s largest municipal fleet of electric vehicles. His aggressive cultivation of solar electricity production led the Wall Street Journal to report that New Bedford was first in the continental U.S. in installed solar capacity per capita. Jon has also strived to position New Bedford to become a leader of the American offshore wind industry through the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, the first municipal agency in America devoted to cultivating offshore wind, and he has promoted his approach to energy reform in his capacity as the Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Energy Committee.
Mayor Mitchell’s roots are deeply imbedded in New Bedford. He was born in the city, and hails from a local fishing family that included his grandfather, Alexander Mitchell, whose name is inscribed at the Seamen’s Bethel among local fisherman lost to the sea. The son of public school teachers, Jon was raised in New Bedford and North Dartmouth, and attended local public schools.
Jon attended Harvard College, where he funded his tuition with financial aid and by working in factories and warehouses back home during the summers. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in economics, he went to work in Washington, D.C., and remained there to attend law school at George Washington University. Upon graduation, Jon began work as a federal prosecutor in the United States Department of Justice, having been selected to the prestigious Attorney General’s Honor Program. As one of the youngest federal prosecutors in the country, he successfully prosecuted both violent crime cases in the District of Columbia, as well as major white collar crime cases across the country.
After three years, Jon returned to Massachusetts, where he worked briefly at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office prosecuting public corruption cases, before leaving for private practice at a major Boston law firm. After paying off his remaining student loans, he returned to the role of federal prosecutor as an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston, in which he prosecuted cases in the areas of white collar crime, firearms, narcotics, environmental crime, and public corruption. Many of his cases were of national importance, including his service as the prosecutor on the task force searching for Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger.
Mayor Mitchell served six years in the Army National Guard. He is married to Dr. Ann Partridge, a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and a breast oncologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where she founded and directs the Institute’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer. They are the proud parents of three daughters, Grace (16), Natalie (14) and Lauren (12), who attend New Bedford Public Schools.