Kathy Dehner, candidate for Ward 3 City Councilor. Credit: Kathy Dehner

Kathy Dehner, 66, a real estate agent who lives on Rockdale Avenue, is the one candidate in the field who has held city office before, this very office. After falling short in a bid for an at-large council seat in 2007, she ran for Ward 3 in 2008 and won.

That was also a special election, one in a series in Ward 3, where councilors have a tendency to step down in midstream. In that case, the incumbent Joe F. DeMedeiros won re-election, and a week later announced that he was leaving the council because he had moved from an administrative position at UMass Dartmouth to a higher-paying post at UMass Boston. 

Dehner won in 2008, served until 2011, and then lost the seat to Henry Bousquet, a culinary arts instructor at New Bedford Vocational Technical High School. She lost again to Bousquet in 2015, then again in yet another special election in 2017, when Bousquet — right — stepped down after the state Ethics Commission ruled that he could not accept a council salary because he was already collecting another city salary at the Voc-Tech. 

In the 2017 special election, Dunn ran and won and, of course, last November announced that he was stepping down because of obligations to his work as a lawyer for a big personal injury firm in Boston. 

So, the arithmetic shows that this is Dehner’s sixth run for the Ward 3 seat, one of which has succeeded. 

“I have a passion for it,” she said. “Everything that happens in the city matters to me.”

That’s a big portfolio, but Dehner said she is particularly concerned about high property taxes. At least part of the answer, she said, is to build the tax base by attracting more commercial enterprises to New Bedford and making use of vacant city-owned property that contributes no tax revenue. 

“We have a lot of city-owned abandoned buildings,” she said.

She said she is pleased that the council is poised to put in place new zoning ordinances meant to simplify rules governing development in the Hicks-Logan area. The city needs more of that, she said, to make the city more attractive to investors. 

“We don’t make it easy,” she said, referring to regulations that can discourage commercial development. “Too many roadblocks. We need to assist investors.”

While the council job pays only a part-time salary, she considers it a full-time commitment. She said she’s prepared to make that commitment, as her real estate work is only part time. 

“We need people that their heart and soul is in the city,” said Dehner, who grew up in the West End and has always lived in New Bedford. “It can’t be easy to walk away.”

Email Arthur Hirsch at ahirsch@newbedfordlight.org

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