About James Ostis

Ph.D candidate in Public Policy. Avid Lowell volunteer. Lowell Heritage Partnership President. Assistant to the Mayor.

Congratulations to Lila Lorrey

Mayor Samaras congratulated long-time UMass Lowell employee, former city manager for a day, and his former student, Lila Lorrey on her retirement at a reception at University Crossing on August 7th.


Be it hereby known to all that
the City of Lowell in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
hereby offers its sincere congratulations and thanks to

Lila Lorrey

For her passionate and dedicated service to the City of Lowell in multiple roles, recently Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor at University Relations at UMass Lowell.  

Prior to working at UMass Lowell, Lila also spent five years as executive assistant to the Publisher and Executive Editor of the Lowell Sun, as well as 19 ½ years of service at various local banks in the Lowell area.

Lila Lorrey has dedicated many years of volunteering service in the city of Lowell to organizations such as St. George’s Orthodox Church, the Salvation Army, The Lowell Plan’s Public Matters program, and raising funds for local charities as a member of the Standing Room Only (SRO) Players.

 She became a grandmother to Odin Gordon Lorrey-O’Keefe on July 30, 2019.

 A graduate of Lowell Schools, Lila was also one of Mayor Samaras’s very best students.

 Now, therefore, I, Mayor William J. Samaras, hereby offer all the best to Lila Lorrey in her retirement.  The entire City of Lowell is proud to honor and thank this distinguished individual and for all her tireless work towards making our city a better place.

 Given this 7th day of August, 2019


William J. Samaras,

MRT celebrates 40 Years


On Saturday, June 22nd, the Merrimack Repertory Theater celebrated the culmination of their 40th season of theater with their annual gala at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

48128233733_a4c5bf8eff_oMayor William Samaras was in attendance and presented longtime MRT supporter, Nancy Donahue with a key to the city in recognition of the theater’s success.

The city had earlier feted MRT prior to the City Council meeting of October 23rd, 2018–40 years to the date of MRT’s debut performance of the “Passion of Dracula”

“As the dedication of the performers, the staff, volunteers, donors, and audiences over the next 40 years and 200+ plays have shown, Passion truly is an appropriate word for MRT.  It takes passion to produce an organization like this,” the Mayor remarked.

Congratulations to Jeannine Durkin

Lowell Superintendent Jeannine Durkin recently announced her retirement.  June 19th marked her last School Committee meeting as Superintendent of the Lowell Public Schools and Mayor William Samaras presented her with a citation in recognition of her service.



Be it hereby known to all that
the City of Lowell in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
hereby offers its sincere appreciation and congratulations to

Jeannine Durkin

Upon the occasion of her retirement from the Lowell Public Schools.

Throughout her 29 year career as an educator and administrator in Lowell, Jeannine has worn many hats, but regardless of the title she held, she always put the students first.

Having served as a health educator for many years gave Jeannine a unique perspective into the lives and minds of Lowell’s diverse young people, making her the perfect candidate to move into administration as a district coordinator and then to head up the McDonough Freshman Academy, which she did with distinction from 2008-2013; and to rise to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Support Services from 2013-2018.

As a champion for the well-being of all of Lowell’s students, Jeannine worked in collaboration with a variety of community partners to initiate a number of innovative programs to support students and families in the district facing issues ranging from truancy and bullying to substance abuse.

When the district was in need of an interim leader who understood the inner workings of the district and could hit the ground running, Jeannine once again stepped up, taking on the position of Acting Superintendent of Schools for the 2018-2019 school year, a role in which she once again exceeded expectations, displaying great leadership and management abilities.

 Now, therefore, I, Mayor William J. Samaras, hereby offer all the best to Jeannine Durkin in her retirement. The entire City of Lowell is proud to honor this distinguished individual for all her tireless work towards making our city a better place.


Given this 19th day of June, 2019.

William J. Samaras

Play Ball! (2019)

“The Spinners will leave Lowell the day after never!”

With those words, Spinners Owner Dave Heller rallied the crowd at the 2019  Opening Night at LeLacheur Park for the 24th season of Lowell Spinners baseball.  As an added bonus Heller, and Spinners General Manager Shawn Smith received their World Series rings from the Red Sox’ 2018 championship season in a pregame ceremony.

Unlike last season, Mayor William Samaras delegated his first pitch duties to his granddaughter, who threw a strike to kick off what will hopefully be a wonderful year of minor league baseball in Lowell.


Unlocking Opportunities with Early College


A recent presentation asked its audience through a show of hands, how many people felt that they were not fully ready for college as freshmen?

The entire room’s hands shot up.

And this was at the Massachusetts State House and the audience was full of legislators, aides, visiting educators, and activists.


Many students spend their first year at college more focused on adjusting than on learning.

According to a recent report by MassINC, Early College could be part of the solution to this pervasive issue.

On June 6th, the public policy thinktank hosted a forum to at the State House’s Nurse’s Hall to launch the report entitled: “Investing in Early College: Our Most Promising Pathway”  The report was funded in part with the support of the Smith Family Foundation.

As the event description noted, “Compelling new research shows early college is one of the most cost-effective strategies to prepare students for success beyond high school.”

The forum was presided over by MassINC COO Juana Matias, a former state representative from Lawrence and featured several speakers from both the legislature and the academic world.


Juana Matias

Other speakers included State Senator Barry Finegold, State Representative Liz Miranda, Jeff Riley, Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education, and Lane Glenn, President of Northern Essex Community College.

Following the Opening remarks was a panel of experts and students including Nuri Chandler Smith, Dean of Academic Support & College Pathways at Bunker Hill Community College; William Thomas, Principal of Charlestown High School; and three students: Melanie Sola from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, Dominick Garcia from Holyoke High School, and Warren Pimentel from Salem High School.  The discussion was moderated by Matias.


Of course there is always a Lowell connection.  Lowell Public Schools was represented by LHS Head of School Marianne Busteed and Project LEARN executive director LZ Nunn as well as staff from the office of State Senator Ed Kennedy.  Kennedy also stopped by the event.

Lowell Public Schools is being considered for a $600K 3-year grant from the Smith Family Foundation to support and expand its Early College Program partnership with Middlesex Community College.


The report, available free for download on MassINC’s website,  revisits projections that Massachusetts will end the next decade with fewer college-educated workers than the current one.  Early College is noted as a cost-effective response to this challenge.

The report notes:

The first Early Colleges cropped up in the 2000s as bold experiments.
Motivated by research demonstrating that low-income students
were significantly less likely to complete college degrees than their
similarly qualified peers, these innovative schools sought to test new
strategies to help low-income, first-generation college-goers make it
into and through college. At the time, many traditional high schools
offered advanced students the chance to take a college-level course
or two by dual-enrolling at local universities and simultaneously
earning both high school and college credit. Early Colleges were
designed specifically to provide this opportunity to students who
were significantly underrepresented among dual-enrollers. Intensive
academic and social supports ensured readiness and success in
challenging college courses. Early College high schools also devised
schedules and course sequences to create greater alignment between
high schools and colleges (both in terms of calendars and curriculums),
making it possible for students to complete a substantial number of
transferable college credits for free—significantly lowering the barriers
to ultimately earning their post-secondary degree

For full coverage of the June 6th event,  please visit MassINC’s event recap.  To read the report, please check out “Investing in Early College: Our Most Promising Pathway”


Bringing Home The Honors from CTI


Each spring, Community Teamwork, Inc. hosts an annual Spring Celebration gala to help support its programming in the Merrimack Valley region.  This year’s gala was themed “Leading the Way Home” and recognized three groups of honorees that have contributed to ending homelessness, particularly among youth, in the region.

Among the honorees were Mayor William Samaras and his predecessor former Mayor and current State Senator Edward Kennedy. Both were honored for the annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest for Homeless Youth, a rock ‘n roll fundraiser designed to raise funds for youth homelessness services.

The Mayor’s Holiday Fest was the brainchild of Senator Kennedy, who attended a similar function in Somerville for several years.  The first annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest took place in 2017 and raised approximately $11,000.  When Kennedy handed off the keys to Room 50 to Mayor in 2018, he challenged his successor to continue the tradition and top his mark–and he did.  The second annual Mayor’s Holiday Fest raised over $18,000.  The tradition will continue later this year with the goal of raising over $20,000 in 2019.

Other honorees for 2019 included Jay Linnehan, President and CEO from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation and The Sisters of Charity of Ottawa and Eric Cousineau for the work done at Bachand Hall.

SpringCelebrationTV.JPGIn addition to the standard speeches and cocktail hour, the CTI Spring Celebration Gala featured an interactive video program where attendees could vote on the answer to certain trivia questions.  Hosted by the CTI youth broadcast team, each honoree was given a segment with one or two questions introduced by a friend or family member of the honoree.  Guests were then invited to vote via their cell phone for the answer they best felt matched the individual or group in question.


For instance, if Ed Kennedy was a member of the Rolling Stones, which one would he be?

You may think its Mick Jagger, but the correct answer is Keith Richards.  At least according to Frank Heslin, Ed’s cousin and the chairman of the Holiday Fest committee.


The audience agreed!



Other honorees received similar trivia treatment with Mayor Samaras’s friends from Long Meadow Golf Club and his granddaughters each giving a different side of his personality.

Each honoree was giving a framed artistic rendering of their home as an award.  Mayor Samaras spoke in accepting the award as well as Senator Kennedy’s wife Susan, as the Senator was in Boston, unable to attend due to the final night of Budget Week at the State House.




An Economic Development Double Header

The Lowell Connector was busy on the morning of May 21st–but the traffic was for a good cause.  Dozens of economic development professionals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors took part in two events that Tuesday morning with the common theme of the day being economic development in Lowell, the region, and the Commonwealth as a whole.


First up was the annual meeting of the Middlesex 3 Coalition, which was held at the headquarters of Kronos, Inc located at the Crosspoint Towers.  Middlesex 3 Coalition is a 501(c)6 non-profit entity comprised of 112 regional stakeholders including leaders in finance, education, medical, real estate development, engineering, non-profits and the community at large, which has steadily grown since its launch in 2012.

The three major target areas of Middlesex 3 are Transportation, Education and Workforce Development, and Infrastructure, Utilities & Real Estate Development.  “These are all areas where our cities and towns can work together to really improve the quality of life for all of our people,” Mayor William Samaras noted during his welcoming remarks.


Mayor Samaras gives his welcoming remarks

After a brief presentation on the year in review, Middlesex 3 honored their 2019 Economic Impact award winners in both the private and public sector categories.


Area town and city managers gathered for the award ceremonies

The Private Sector Awards went to MilliporeSigma of Burlington and EMD Serono of Billerica, while the Public Sector award went to the Massachusetts Office of Business Development’s Peter Milano.


Peter Milano accepts the award and congratulations from Stephanie Cronin

Following the awards, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito served as the morning’s keynote speaker.


But the morning was only halfway over as the majority of the crowd at the Middlesex 3 meeting took the trip downtown to the campus of Middlesex Community College where the Massachusetts Office of Housing and Economic Development was hosting a community engagement session as part of Governor Charlie Baker’s economic development plan.


Mayor Samaras, Rep. Nangle, Jim Campbell, Karyn Polito, James Mabry, Mike Kennealy

The event was one of a series organized and hosted by Mike Kennealy who is in his first year as the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development following his stint as a deputy to former secretary Jay Ash.


Mike Kennealy, Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development


Representative Tram Nguyen is recognized at the Engagement Session

Mayor Samaras welcomed the crowd made up of economic development professionals from all over the region and beyond with an update on Lowell’s recent progress.

DSC_1022“Lowell has certainly seen a great deal of economic development over the past four years.  We have seen buildings in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District reach full capacity as public infrastructure has paved the way for private investment.  This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity in our city and I thank the governor’s administration for being a fully invested partner in its successful progress,” the Mayor began.

“But we also have to look out for small businesses, our entrepreneurs and startups—last week the City of Lowell was honored with the Small Business Friendly City Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors at a ceremony we held at EforAll,” Samaras added,  “It was a microcosm of what we’re trying to do in Lowell, just as I think Lowell is a microcosm of the economic development activity in the entire Commonwealth.”


Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism’s Keiko Orrall and EforAll’s Lianna Kushi

Following additional opening remarks by the Secretary and MCC President James Mabry, groups broke out into two sessions of discussions based on the topics of Community & Neighborhood Development, Innovation & Start-Ups, Jobs & Workforce Development, Housing, Key Clusters & Industries, and Business Growth.


All told the economic development engagement sessions will involve over 1000 stakeholders and take place in nine separate regions throughout the Commonwealth.

At the end of the Merrimack Valley session,  Lt. Governor Politio thanked the participants and provided closing remarks.


For more information on the Governor’s Economic Development Plan and the planning process, you can visit this page on the EOHED website.

Small Business Friendly City Award

The following press release was printed in the Lowell Sun on May 20th, 2019


Mayor William Samaras was joined by representatives of Lowell’s Economic Development Office and other nonprofit partners on Wednesday as he accepted the 2019 Partner America Small Business Friendly Community Award on behalf of the City of Lowell.  The ceremony took place at the headquarters of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) in Lowell’s Wannalancit Mills complex.

“Small Businesses really make up the backbone of this local economy,” said Jeff Bean, director of the Partner America program, “The US Conference of Mayors and the Partner America program would like to recognize the city for all its efforts to make Lowell a small business friendly community.”

The award description reads “Lowell has demonstrated its commitment and support of small business by creating a business friendly environment for businesses to grow and prosper. Your efforts have helped many new entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams and start a business and helped your existing businesses stay and expand in Lowell.”

The award recognized not only the efforts of the city government but also the many community organizations dedicated to supporting local economic development ranging from burgeoning startups to well-established family businesses.  This was a theme the mayor touched upon during his remarks.

“Lowell is a city that is blessed with partnerships,” Mayor Samaras noted, “I want to thank the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Partner America program for recognizing our collective commitment to supporting small business in the City of Lowell.”

Other speakers during the morning program included the city’s director of economic development, Andrew Shapiro and EforAll Lowell-Lawrence executive director Lianna Kushi who introduced two entrepreneurs who got their start through EforAll’s accelerator program, Betsy Baez of Bella Divine Beauty and Sharon Drelick of Assemble Lab.

The Mayor’s Office held the event at EforAll’s headquarters to highlight the role of the organization in helping so many small businesses in Lowell get their start.  Since its inception in 2010, EforAll has helped support the launch of 349 startups of which 83 percent are still in business.

Representatives of the Lowell Plan, Lowell Financial and Development Corporation, and the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center were also in attendance. The event was catered by Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus, a small business mainstay in Downtown Lowell.

The Partner America Program is a United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) small business initiative to provide Mayors with best practices, information and support to help grow and sustain local businesses. The Partner America committee is Co-Chaired by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. More information on the program can be found at www.partneramerica.com.