Jacob J. Ventura is making a third run at public office, this time in New Bedford, where he was raised until his family moved to Dartmouth when he was a boy. He said he doesn’t want the council salary, he doesn’t want the health insurance, he just wants to do the job.
The 35-year-old lawyer with the international firm Ropes & Gray in Boston said his experience in state and local government makes him singularly qualified for the position.
“I’ve actually done it,” he said, referring to a main point of emphasis for everyone seeking this position: constituent service.
The subject carries particular weight for Ventura, who may prompt some Ward 3 voters to experience Hugh Dunn déjà vu. The former councilor was also commuting to a law firm in Boston before he decided to step down, as the professional commitment was interfering with his council duties.
Ventura insists this is different.
He says his current concentration in private equity law allows him to regularly work from home, and he’s accustomed to long hours.
“I work all hours of the night, I don’t sleep much,” said Ventura, adding that he considers the council job a full-time commitment and figures he’ll have 40 hours a week to devote to it.
And, due in large part to his experience working for more than three years as a legislative aide to State Rep. Steven S. Howitt of Seekonk, he said he knows the constituent service part of the job as well or better than his competition.
Last month he put out a news release detailing his plan to handle this. The proposal includes a pledge to hold weekly in-person office hours with constituents, a personal phone number and email available around the clock, a service database modeled on systems used in state and congressional legislative offices to track constituent contacts.
He said his work with Howitt’s office included helping seek benefits for veterans, senior citizens, parents of disabled students and people who needed food and unemployment assistance.
Along with Robert Cabral, Ventura is one of two candidates living on the eastern edge of the ward, in the Hicks-Logan district. He had been staying since the fall with a friend in the Lofts at Wamsutta Place, an apartment building in a refurbished textile mill, and said he has since rented his own place there.
He moved to the city last year from Dartmouth, where he served two years on the Town of Dartmouth Finance Committee and more recently worked on the successful referendum campaign there to keep the Dartmouth school system Indian logo.
“I’ve always been involved to some extent in the public realm,” said Ventura, who ran for a state Senate seat in the Bristol and Norfolk District in a special election in 2017, and a general election in 2018. Running as a Republican, Ventura lost both times to the Democrat Paul Feeney.
Ventura said he’d like to see the council examine its own way of doing business in light of recent stories about a meeting that had to be adjourned after two councilors walked out, lack of discussion of substantial pay raises given to a small group of city department managers, and communication problems between the mayor and the council.
In voting to put him on the council, he said voters would be “sending an adult into a room full of children.”
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