After Everett City Councilor Anthony DiPierro admitted to sharing a racist meme, Darren Costa was one of the residents who lined up at a public meeting in March to express outrage. And then he turned his attention to the other councilors.
“To allow this behavior from any of your elected colleagues is unacceptable. To remain silent is the equivalent of aiding and abetting racist behavior,” he said. “You cannot have biases against the group of people you claim to champion.”
Now Costa is joining that council to take over DiPierro’s seat. After calls from Attorney General Maura Healey to quit, and facing pressure from rallies by Everett residents, DiPierro resigned in late May. Under city council rules, Costa, who ran against and came in second behind DiPierro in November, steps into the vacant seat. He’ll be sworn into office at Monday night’s council meeting.
Costa represents a strong contrast to DiPierro. He calls himself an “anti-prejudice person” whose perspective has been shaped by personal experience. The white son of Portuguese immigrants, he is married to a Haitian woman. They have one biracial son, and a daughter due in July.
“Having been with my wife for almost 20 years and having seen her suffer from poor behaviors, you know, I feel drawn to it [anti-racism]. Not everyone does,” Costa said in an interview with GBH News.
But Costa, a CPA by training who works in corporate finance, also describes himself as an “analytical guy” who is moving carefully as he takes up his new post. He said he’s been spending time studying the council’s rules of procedure and is giving his fellow councilors the benefit of the doubt.
“So there are plenty of people on that council, if not all, that are not racist and condemn racist behavior. But they don’t necessarily understand how it works from a systemic point of view,” said Costa.
Costa, who relies on data in his professional work, wants to bring a more data-driven approach to decision making in the council to measure the impact of decisions on community members.
Resident Gerly Adrien, who during her tenure as Everett’s first Black city councilor had accused white colleagues of trying to push her off the council, said data-driven decision-making would be a welcome shift.
“A lot of the city council members make their decisions based off how they feel and who they know,” Adrien said. ”I’m hoping for Darren and hoping for anyone new on the council that they will be this light and … that [he] will stand up and look at data and take personal emotions out of decisions.”
Everett’s Mayor Carlo De Maria won a fifth term in 2021 by 200 votes in a city where a majority of residents are people of color and most city officials, including De Maria, are white. Costa said he plans to help the community understand the importance of voting.
“Not enough people vote. So from my experience, the folks who do vote tend to be able to drive changes in government, where I want to be sure that I’m encouraging the entire community to vote,” Costa said.
Other residents expressed cautious optimism. Paula Sterite, a 40-year resident of Everett and a vocal critic of Everett’s city government, is hoping Costa’s professional background in finance and his personal story will be assets on the council.
Sterite called it “a positive sign,” but added, “We are not naive, we understand he is just one vote among mayor loyalists.”
Everett still faces other potential fallout from allegations of racism: A discrimination complaint against Mayor DeMaria by the city’s school superintendent Priya Tahiliani is still pending. And US Attorney Rachael Rollins recently launched a probe into racism allegations and possible civil rights violations in city government. Asked about the Rollins investigation, Costa called it “encouraging to know that people are watching.”
Back in March, Everett resident Janice Lark, who is Black, spoke emotionally during a March city council meeting about feeling betrayed by DiPierro, who represented her ward. She now has a long to-do list for Costa, including bringing transparency to city contract bidding and “working to get the current city government to look more like the people it represents.” But she’s keeping her expectations “low.”
“The DeMaria machine has been in control for so long, change will come very slowly. But it is coming,” she said. “After witnessing the pressure the residents applied to get DiPierro off the council, I expect the council to listen to us residents more.”