In a statement first released to The Enterprise, City Councilor at-large Jean Bradley Derenoncourt announced his candidacy for the mayor of Brockton. Derenoncourt, a 28-year-old native of Haiti, who became a U.S. citizen in 2016 before getting elected to City Council the following year, is challenging three-term incumbent Mayor Bill Carpenter, 62.
By Marc Larocque
Enterprise Staff Writer
As Published by The Enterprise
BROCKTON – In 2017, he made history as a Haitian-American elected to the City Council.
Now, he has his sights set on the corner office at City Hall.
In a statement first released to The Enterprise, Councilor-at-large Jean Bradley Derenoncourt on Tuesday declared his candidacy for the mayor. Derenoncourt, a 28-year-old native of Haiti, who became a U.S. citizen in 2016, is challenging three-term incumbent Mayor Bill Carpenter, 62. If elected, Derenoncourt would be the first non-white mayor of the city of roughly 100,000 people, where racial minorities now make up majority of the population, which includes large immigrant communities from Haiti and Cape Verde.
“In 2010, when I needed a new home and a new community, the city of Brockton welcomed me with open arms and I will never forget that,” said Derenoncourt, in the statement provided to The Enterprise. “Giving back to the city I love is what drives me every day, and it is what drives me now to run for mayor. Our city has immense potential that I see every single day, but we will only reach our necessary goals with bold, aggressive leadership, while turning to one another and working together. As mayor, I will work as hard as I can for the amazing people of Brockton.”
Along with Carpenter and Derenoncourt, the field of contenders so far this year also includes Jimmy Pereira, who fell short to the incumbent mayor in 2017 as a first-time candidate for public office, picking up 45.5 percent of the vote.
Before launching his campaign for mayor, Derenoncourt became the first Haitian-American elected to serve on the 11-member City Council, earning a two-year term that began in 2017 by collecting 5,250 votes citywide, joining three other incumbent councilors-at-large. Derenoncourt, who is a registered Democrat, was also touted as the first Haitian man to get elected to public office in Massachusetts history, inspiring U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to bring him as her guest to President Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address.
“During his time on the council, he has advocated for stronger senior services, community public safety initiatives, an increase in education funding, better youth services, a revitalization of the downtown area, and improved access to voter registration for city residents,” said the Derenoncourt campaign, in the statement provided to The Enterprise.
Derenoncourt, born in Port-au-Prince, spent his childhood on the Haitian island of La Gonave, and immigrated to the U.S. in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, settling in Brockton.
After that, Derenoncourt worked his way up, learning English through an ESL program at the Public Library, earning his GED, going to Massasoit Community College and getting his bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University, where he continues to pursue a master’s degree in public administration. In addition to serving as councilor-at-large, Derenoncourt most recently worked on Beacon Hill as legislative aide for state Sen. Michael Brady, following internships for former Mayor Linda Balzotti and former Gov. Deval Patrick.
Before announcing his candidacy for mayor, Derenoncourt was the subject of intense speculation about a run for the city’s top leadership position.
Derenoncourt said he believes Carpenter even launched a preemptive political strike against him during his recent State of the City address, singling out the councilor-at-large as one of the two co-sponsors behind the Brockton United ordinance, a proposal meant to assure city residents with questionable immigration status that they can call 911 without fear of local police reporting them to federal authorities for deportation. Carpenter deemed it a “sanctuary city piece of legislation,” which would needlessly jeopardize crucial relationships with federal law enforcement agencies.
Derenoncourt defended himself in strongly worded comments for Carpenter, whose campaign has since been posting political campaign signs around the community, urging opposition to the “sanctuary city” proposal. Derenoncourt said the Brockton United ordinance is not a sanctuary city law, explaining that it is simply meant to help women suffering domestic abuse and other victims of violence, who are targeted by criminals preying on undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. Derenoncourt also said the ordinance would not prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from coming to the city to detain people living here illegally.
“To be called out like that was truly pathetic,” said Derenoncourt, speaking to The Enterprise on March 29. “It was shallow. And it was unexpected. ... The gentleman is trying to portray me as someone who is trying to turn Brockton into a bad place. Everyone knows that’s not true.”
In a brief phone call with The Enterprise on Tuesday morning, Derenoncourt said he’s looking forward to earning the votes of all city residents, regardless of their political orientation or background.
“I’m excited about taking on this new journey,” Derenoncourt said. “I love this city. This city has been good to me since Day 1. I want to represent everyone accordingly. I would be the voice of everyone in the city. I’m not running for myself as mayor, I’m running for us.”