After 21 Years, Desisto Has Likely Chaired His Last ZBA Meeting

A change to the City’s administrative code and a move to New Hampshire two years ago have brought to an end the 21-year stay of Zoning Board (ZBA) Chair Joe Desisto, as he was informed Monday night that his successor was in the pipeline and he would have to resign when that person is sworn in.

“It’s been great helping watch and protect the City of Everett,” he said after the meeting, which is likely his last. “I’ve always done my best. It’s been fun and it’s been frustrating – pretty much any adjective you can think of would describe it. I met a lot of good people…One thing I told the City Council (quoting from others) is we’re entering our most trying period and it’s a period of success. You have to have control of success. Success is either going to destroy us or make us. Success brings higher real estate values and it bring high rents too. We can’t complain because it’s success.”

Desisto chaired the meeting on Monday night, and after a short agenda that was shortened further due to a lack of members present, the item was brought up about his resignation and the rules changes.

City Clerk Sergio Cornelio explained that the new Administrative Code, no one could serve that doesn’t live in Massachusetts. Similarly, no one can serve on the Boards if they don’t live in Everett or don’t own property in Everett. After living in Everett for 70 years, Desisto said he moved to Portsmouth, NH, two years ago.

Under the new rules, he does not qualify to chair the Board any longer, Cornelio said, and there are no grandfathering provisions.

“Your successor is not yet qualified, and you can continue to serve until that person is qualified and sworn in,” he said. “When that person has been qualified, I or the mayor will immediately inform you and you will not be able to serve anymore.”

Already, one new member has taken the place of Roger Thistle, who was an alternate member and resigned recently.

That new member, Carmine DiBattista (former owner of Bucci’s), was sworn in Monday afternoon, but was not yet ready to attend Monday’s meeting.

There was no word yet on whom was chosen to replace Desisto, but it was expected that person would be ready before the next meeting on Aug. 5.

Desisto served under three mayors, having been appointed in 1998 under former Mayor David Ragucci. His style was straight-forward and by the book. He was always able to calm many applicants, who frequently find the proceedings to be difficult and nerve-racking – sometimes it is their first interaction with City government.

Sometimes his style was bent on the philosophical, as his parting words about success above indicated. That was especially true over the past few years as the resort casino era has gripped the City and major changes have unfolded. He often talked about the crossroads that Everett was at, and how various projects fit into it.

He presided over meetings that reviewed some of the most transformative projects in Everett – including the Encore Boston Harbor resort, the Batch Yard, the Pioneer Apartments and others.

On Monday, he said he would always be from Everett, whether on the Board or not.

“Whenever anyone asks me where I’m from, I’m from Everett; I’ll always be from Everett,” he said.

The effort on the Zoning Board is but one of several changes that are being made by Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s office, particularly with the passage of the new Administrative Code.

That Code has eliminated many people on the Boards from qualifying to serve.

The Library Board has been overhauled, as many on that Board did not live in Everett for many years. The same has happened on the Planning Board, where member Nancy Keury – who moved from Everett awhile back – will be serving only until her successor is picked.

Cornelio said it’s all part of getting some new faces and fresh ideas on the Boards in the City – something Mayor DeMaria has been speaking about around the city since January.

“The administration is looking to get people to serve on boards,” he said. “There are a few open positions. In the coming months, you’ll see new faces and those that will continue to serve too. Other might serve on different Boards and Commissions…There is no big push to get rid of anybody, but to find those interested in serving in the city.”

One of the biggest changes comes in the residency/property ownership requirement. For those that serve, and once lived in Everett but have now moved out, they will find that they no longer qualify.

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