How will city government and local politics carry on in Revere without Bob Haas? Shock waves from his death last week continue to reverberate. Revere without Bob Haas will be like waking one morning to find streets and highways stripped of signs: It’s still possible to drive from one place to another but that sense of guidance and knowing one’s bearings is gone.
Robert J. Haas Jr. spent almost his entire adult life involved in Revere public service. Elected to the City Council in 1979, Haas served in the Council Chamber and in the mayor’s office through 1999. When most elected officials might be inclined to end their political careers, Haas came back from a hiatus in 2003 to serve again on the council.
Always ready with a kind word and equally versed in Revere’s political, sports, civic and business life, Haas transitioned from being a young politician intent on changing the city’s political dynamics to joining a core of long-time councilors with institutional knowledge about the city.
He knew the late George Colella and William Reinstein. He also witnessed the rise of new Revere leaders like Mayor Brian Arrigo. He remembered the old police station behind City Hall and he helped get the new station on Revere Beach Parkway built.
When it came to debating and disagreeing about gambling and the future of Suffolk Downs, Haas brought experience and institutional knowledge to the discussions. He remembered in detail the days when the horse track and the former Wonderland Greyhound Park flourished in Revere.
Haas’ detractors could never brand him one-dimensionally because his reputation and knowledge of the city extended way beyond City Hall. His Broadway business put him in the center of the city’s commercial hub. When people talked about hardships faced by small local businesses and giving the little guy a break on taxes, Bob Haas knew what they were talking about.
He made his mark on city civic life with continuous involvement in local organizations dedicated to improving the lives of local businesses, youth and helping the public schools.
Haas gave as good as he got in the rough-and-tumble world of Revere politics. When he awoke on a May morning in 1993 to find his business windows covered in bumper stickers, he confronted city public safety workers he held accountable for the defacement and called them “midnight raiders in uniforms.”
When the late Colella and other tough-talkers on the council like Anthony Zambuto disagreed with Haas, the oratory temperature in the Council Chamber climbed rapidly. Once the meeting ended, Bob Haas could break bread with people who disagreed with him and talk about the important things in life — family — his wife, Juanita, and children Jennifer, Rachel and Robert.
“His first thought was always his family and the city of Revere,” said Councilor John Powers.
Even in the midst of conducting city business, Haas would take time away from government and politics to inquire about someone’s health and their family. He understood how Revere’s strength came from its families and he understood government’s role in making the city a place where people want to buy a home and raise their kids.
Haas could have represented Revere in the State House or in Congress with the same dedication and commitment to the city he demonstrated as a councilor and mayor. He remained close to home throughout his career so he could strike a balance between family, business, civic and public service commitment.
He will be mourned and remembered throughout the week and for weeks and months ahead and people who knew him will talk about Bob Haas was a template for a true public servant, someone who never strayed far from home and could not stand on the sidelines when his city needed his service and his dedication.