Sen. John Kerry’s deputy state director is considering running for mayor of Newton in 2009.

Sen. John Kerry’s deputy state director is considering running for mayor of Newton in 2009.


Setti Warren, a Newton native, said he has been listening and talking with several people about a possible run, but would not make an official announcement until after this fall’s municipal election.


“I am really flattered by the encouragement I’ve received from a number of people about the possibility of running for mayor, and I am considering it,” Warren, 36, told the TAB.


Warren is one of several potential candidates believed to be considering a run for the office.


Alderman Ken Parker tested the waters in 2005 by conducting a poll, and said recently that it’s not a “big secret” he would consider running for mayor in the future.


Former mayoral candidates Mike Striar and Tom Sheff have also told the TAB they are thinking about running again.


Allies close to Mayor David Cohen have previously said that they expect the mayor will likely run again.


Although he has never run for public office, Warren has made politics his profession.


The Newtonville resident served in the Clinton White House, and was appointed in 2002 the regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for New England. Warren joined Kerry’s crew in 2003, serving as the senator’s trip director and press secretary before becoming his deputy state director in late 2005.


“I think Newton can be a real world-class place and I’m thinking about this because … if there’s the possibility that I can be helpful in bringing it to new heights, then I’m going to do it,” he said.


Politics is in the Warren family blood. Joseph D. Warren, Setti’s father, once served as the general election coordinator and leading adviser on Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988. He also led an effort in 1985 to revise the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s charter.


The younger Warren took after his father early, serving as class president at Newton North High School.


Peg Hannigan, considered by many the godmother of Newton politics, has known Warren since his school days and supports him as a possible mayoral candidate.


“I think we really have got to bring in the younger generation,” said Hannigan, chairman emeritus of the Newton Democratic City Committee. “There’s nothing wrong with the guys that are there now, but we need a little change. Change is good.”


Locally, Warren was a founding member of the Community Preservation Committee and served on Newton’s Foundation for Racial, Ethnic and Religious Harmony. His work on the foundation earned him a human rights award in 1997, a day named in his honor (Dec. 15), and the key to the city, presented by then-first lady Hillary Clinton.


Former Community Preservation Committee Chairman Andy Stern said he was impressed by Warren’s skill as a communicator.


“What impressed me most was his leadership capacity,” Stern said. “When he spoke, people listened to him. Setti offers real hope that the city can and willdo better.”


He saw Warren as proactive and not part of the status quo that brings “divisiveness, inertia and rancor” to city politics.


Steve Grossman, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and long-time Newton resident, balanced words of praise for Warren with those for Cohen, whom he has supported over the years.


“Nobody should ever doubt for a moment Cohen’s basic decency and his unshakable commitment to making Newton the very best community it can be,” Grossman said. “When you’ve been mayor a long time, you inevitably wind up with those who think he should move on.


Should Warren decide to run in 2009, Newtonites would potentially benefit from a debate between a mayor with a strong track record and a new face with a list of real-life experiences, Grossman added.


“I think a lot of people will see a competition, if you will, as something of being a win-win for the people of Newton,” he said.


In his current position, Warren works with municipalities on economic development and constituent issues across the state.


Considering his experience within the executive and legislative branches, “[Setti] has a finger on the pulse of unmet needs of cities and towns,” Grossman said.


He didn’t consider Warren’s status as a first-time candidate a detriment to any future campaign.


“I think the people of Newton are very open-minded to fresh faces who offer something special and exciting and bold and imaginative ... and Setti is all those things.” Grossman said.


Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@cnc.com.