by Joseph Markman
BROCKTON – The election later this year is expected to shake up the City Council, with a handful of councilors already saying they won’t run again and others on the fence.
Among the changes, one departure is sure to stand out.
In 2011, only one city councilor took a strong stand against nepotism in Brockton government.
Early in the battle over the proposed Brockton power plant, one candidate declared his opposition first.
Just one city resident – who is both African American and openly gay – came within five points of becoming mayor.
Jass Stewart is, in many ways, a paradox.
He is an outsider, hailing from Dallas, Texas, who railed against cronyism and lethargy in city government while running for mayor twice and later earning three terms as a councilor-at-large.
Yet he also declares his love for the city he has made home for 15 years. It is where he developed roots, where he sent his son to school and where he remains, despite years of working in senior management roles that have kept him on the road.
It is that heavy workload – most recently taking on a full-time role with the Department of Education in Malden – that led Stewart to decide not to run this year for a seat on the City Council.
“Someone said to me, ‘Why don’t you hold on to this position and do less?’” Stewart said. “That’s really not in my DNA. I’ve never approached any of my work like that, and I certainly don’t want to do it in this position where the stakes are so high.”
Stewart has been involved with city government for more than a decade. His early appointments include a seat on the Cable Advisory Board, a role in screening school superintendents and a board position with Brockton Area Multi-Services, Inc.
In 2005, he ran for mayor against James Harrington and lost by 12 percentage points. Two years later, the margin slipped to just 5 points.
“I grew up dead-poor in Texas,” Stewart told a campaign crowd in July 2005 at the Fuller Craft Museum. “My parents were very uncompromising about working hard.”
Stewart went on to win election to the City Council as a councilor-at-large in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Recently, he has been focused on “good government” initiatives, such as developing a system for merit-based pay for city department heads and looking at how Brockton’s government functions.
Stewart, 44, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boston University. He was later a senior research fellow in urban planning at MIT. His adopted son, Jajuan, 22, is stationed in Japan with the U.S. Navy.
Stewart’s decision not to run disappointed his colleagues, who said Stewart has been fair, professional and a hard worker.
“It’s kind of sad. He’s really been a great councilor,” Ward 2 Councilor Thomas Monahan said. “He wants to do what’s best for the city. He doesn’t have any agendas.”
Mayor Bill Carpenter said that he asked Stewart to reconsider, calling him “an important member of the council.”
“I may not agree with him on every issue, but I’ve had a great working relationship with him during my 14 months as mayor,” Carpenter said. “It’s a great loss to the council to see him leave.”
Councilor-at-large Shaynah Barnes said she took advantage of Stewart’s advice during her first year as a councilor. She is not surprised to see him go, however.
“Trailblazers don’t really stick around,” Barnes said. “They blaze their trail and then they move on to another trail.”
Joseph Markman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.