Jacob Ventura suggested that we go to the waterfront behind Kyler’s Seafood during my walk with him in his Hicks-Logan neighborhood. In the area behind Kyler’s Seafood he showed me a few handsome docked fishing boats and pointed to the general location where Quinn Fisheries is building a small shipyard.

It’s an area that everyone in city political circles knows that on paper has great development possibilities.

Jacob Ventura speaks with Jack Spillane:


“I think this area generally, on the water and close to the downtown, has a lot of opportunity for growth, and future development and attracting more folks to the city,” he said.

He’s right, of course, but he’s not telling anyone who’s been around New Bedford political circles for the last two decades anything that they don’t already know. Located at the intersection of Interstate 195 and a scenic New Bedford harbor, Hicks-Logan is long past its development due date, much to the frustration of incumbent city officials.

A corporate lawyer from humble beginnings, Ventura’s campaign has been beset by charges that his entry into the Ward 3 race is his second attempt at carpetbagging in a political district he hasn’t lived in long. He seems anxious to prove to me he knows New Bedford and is plugged in to the political establishment. Even when he lived elsewhere, he says, he was around this Ward 3 neighborhood all the time. 

Ventura, however, doesn’t know who the fishing boats outside Kyler’s belonged to, whether the seafood retailer’s or someone else’s. I’m not sure who they belong to either but then I’m not running for a seat in Ward 3, where, for the record, I don’t live. 

Though Ventura does not seem an expert on Hicks-Logan, he’s a high-level lawyer and a political operative. He’ll know how to make the contacts and influence the proceedings when and if Hicks-Logan ever does take off. That’s an important ingredient in getting things done in politics.

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Ventura, 35, a few years back worked as an aide for state Rep. Steve Howitt of Seekonk, and he says he has also worked with all the members of the local legislative delegation, quickly name-checking Mark Montigny, Tony Cabral, Chris Markey, Mike Rodrigues, Bill Straus, Christopher Hendricks, Pat Haddad and Paul Schmid.

Long a Republican Party player, Ventura back in 2010 supported Joe Michaud’s state rep run against Chris Markey in the Dartmouth-base district, ran for state Senate in Attleboro in 2018 and 2019 and was more recently active in the campaign for Dartmouth to retain the name “Indians” for the high school’s sports teams and school clubs. He describes himself, however, as a moderate, Charlie Baker Republican and says he holds the same positions on the issues as the local Democratic establishment in overwhelmingly blue, albeit somewhat conservative blue, New Bedford.

On paper, the Hicks-Logan neighborhood where Ventura and I are walking is about to get its third or fourth development plan. This time it will be identified as an urban renewal district, which the Mitchell administration hopes will finally be the key for the area between I-195 and Route 18 to take off. It’s a complicated, long-depressed site with many different owners and not a few problems, social and otherwise.

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A significant part of Hicks-Logan is occupied by F&B Rubberized, a tire recycler that has purchased a number of surrounding residential properties and operates a business that looks like something out of an environmental Dante’s Inferno for the poor folks who live nearby.

I ask Ventura to walk up to F&B’s hub with me and when I ask him if he knows what it is, he’s cautious.

“What’s going on here?” I ask. “What do you mean?” he says.

“What’s going on in this neighborhood around us?” I ask.

“This is part of the redevelopment plan in terms of the map, that I reviewed it again,” he says. I’m not sure what he means, but he continues. “Trying to continue to make sure these mixed-use areas, residential and commercial, are kept up.”

I ask him if he’s familiar with what business it is, on both sides of the grimy street.

“If I remember correctly, isn’t this … is it something to do with rubber?” he asks.

I tell him it’s F&B Tire (F&B Rubberized) and give him the long history of F&B and Land Locker Inc., the F&B associated company that once bought up the residential properties adjacent to the tire recycler.

“I’m not going to comment on the look and feel of the neighborhood,” Ventura says. “I’ll let people do their own assessment of that,” adding that he’ll follow up with the F&B owners to listen to what they have to say. That kind of networking is a good instinct and one that those less used to the corridors of power are aware of. Ventura at this time also emphasizes that he’s a listener who wants to find out information for himself.

“I’m going to have to do more research. I do think part of this job is not having all the answers and listening. I think that’s one of the things I do well,” he says.

Ventura grew up in a triple-decker South End neighborhood until he was 7, and then said his parents moved just over the line to Dartmouth for the school system. He has important roots in the city in the Cape Verdean, Portuguese and Wampanoag communities.

Ventura is not shy. He says he has reached out to all the other candidates in the Ward 3 race to talk about that. A number of the other candidates have told me that already, and I think it’s a bit unusual. It left me wondering whether he’s trying to download their strategies. At least one of them, Carmen Amaral, didn’t call him back, Ventura acknowledged. Good for her, I’d say.

As we walk around, I can’t help feeling that Ventura is a nice guy, if not a very ambitious one. I don’t necessarily doubt his story that he moved into a friend’s apartment at the nearby and upscale-for-New Bedford Wamsutta Place complex in September because he wanted to be near the coming train to Boston. I don’t necessarily believe it either. The residents of Ward 3 will have to make up their mind whether his brief residence in the ward makes a difference. As I’ve said before, it is probably not the most important issue in the race.

My walk with Ventura took place in mid-December and he had a Wamsutta employee show me an apartment that he said he planned to rent starting this month (January). Since our walk he’s produced lease documents to a variety of news outlets.

Ventura said he decided to run for the Ward 3 seat even though he had not lived there before a few months ago because he honestly believes that he can do a better job of representing it than anyone else. 

He argues that he really is a Greater New Bedford area kid and he’s right about that. He grew up in a triple-decker South End neighborhood until he was 7, and then said his parents moved just over the line to Dartmouth for the school system. He has important roots in the city in the Cape Verdean, Portuguese and Wampanoag communities.

Ventura stresses that he has always hung around New Bedford, the downtown restaurants and pubs. That also may be true enough but he has also had residences in Connecticut and L.A. in recent years while he worked for Ropes & Gray, a prestigious Boston law firm. He’s doing well enough to say he’ll forgo the council salary or benefits.

Ventura is running perhaps the most traditional of the campaigns. He has issued a spate of press releases outlining his positions on issues, even criticizing certain actions of the current council. Like the other candidates, he lists constituent services as his highest priority and pledges to hold weekly office hours and create a constituent database. Among the other priorities on his Facebook page are public safety, taxes and economic development.

Ventura seems to have made a good effort to learn all he can about Ward 3, and the troubled Hicks-Logan neighborhood where his residence is in the one up-market development. But, like opponent Bob Cabral (who also lives in the neighborhood), he could not identify the site of the 2020 Thanksgiving Day fire that destroyed most of three buildings on multi-family Washburn Street. He seemed to know little about the iconic auto body and car repair shop, Lech’s Garage, and he offered no opinion about the location in the neighborhood of two substance abuse recovery centers.

He did tell me about one of his plans for the campaign, much of which has taken place by way of social media and whatever political cards candidates are leaving on people’s doorsteps.

“I’ll give you a sneak peek now, we’re going to be aggressively coming out against safe injection sites in New Bedford. I’ll have more on that later,” he said.

I told him that sounded like a Republican Party wedge issue. It sounded to me like being against defunding the police, or in favor of prayer in public schools. He again says he’s a moderate and hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 2012. 

“It’s a public safety issue we’re talking to some folks about,” Ventura said of his fear that safe injection sites could come to New Bedford. “You know a lot of homeowners want to protect their investment, their lifetime investment, which is their homes in this city.”

Although there is a Senate bill that would allow Massachusetts communities to allow safe injection sites, it has not yet passed either branch of the Legislature.   

“I’m generally skeptical about some of these types of businesses,” Ventura said of another issue related to substance abuse problems, the drug treatment centers that are already located in Hicks-Logan.

He said he had closely followed the news about the proposal to locate a suboxone-clinic in downtown New Bedford and he is opposed to it.

That would put him in the same company as the overwhelming majority of the City Council and Mayor Mitchell. Maybe even the city as a whole. 

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of walking profiles with each of the seven candidates in the Jan. 24 preliminary election for Ward 3 city councilor. Read Jack Spillane’s overview of the race with links to all seven profiles.

Email Jack Spillane at jspillane@newbedfordlight.org.

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