You may have heard the rhyme: Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin.

But the new mayor, Jared Nicholson, has a different attitude. He sees it as a city of growth.

Nicholson is a father — his son just started preschool and a second child is on the way. He’s also a former college wrestler who still takes part in a beach-wrestling tournament every summer.

“We just put ropes in the sand and wrestlers come from all over New England,” he said. “I wrestled this summer. Every summer I wonder if this should be my last one. But I made it.”

He's a fluent Spanish speaker, a skill that comes in handy in a city that's 43 percent Hispanic. He met up with GBH News at the North Shore Latino Business Association, an organization he worked with after getting his law degree from Harvard in 2014, the same year the 36-year-old Sudbury native moved to Lynn.

“I've been so excited to build a life here and raise a family here, and really excited to get involved,” Nicholson said. “And at the time I was really excited about the importance of the connection between economic development, what I was doing with small businesses, and education. I got involved in the school committee.”

Last November, he was elected mayor. Some wondered if Nicholson was too new to the city to become its top executive. But voters were persuaded by his ideas around the city’s growth and development being inclusive for all as it looks to use its waterfront and history of life sciences and become more connected to Boston.

“For a lot of people, that creates a feeling of uneasiness and a question about whether that future is going to include them. And it's not easy,” Nicholson said. “I don't think other communities have figured this out. And we're certainly trying to make sure that we're deliberate about the way that we grow, continuing to prioritize affordability, and then also thinking about how to help folks tap into that growth and potential.”

A tall building with a mural of a man on one side. The man has headphones around his neck and a pair of sneakers slung over his shoulders.
A mural of Lynn resident Ferns François at the corner of Central Avenue and Union Street. The artist Sam Bates, who goes by SMUG, completed it in 2019.
Karen Marshall GBH News

Nicholson is trying to do that by focusing on entrepreneurship, “supporting small, local businesses that really play to the strengths of the city and the diversity that we have,” he said.

He is also responsible for leading some projects along Lynn’s waterfront. The Massachusetts Legislature gave Lynn and neighboring Swampscott about $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to clean up King’s Beach in Lynn.

“We absolutely need to clean up King’s Beach,” Nicholson said. “It's a big issue and we're going to continue to need more state and federal help. But we’re making progress. And it really is an environmental justice issue that this is our beach and it's one of the only beaches in the area after the cleanup of the Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay that's still not usable. And it's not right. And it needs to be fixed.”

And with a redevelopment plan came some concerns about what the waterfront will become. Nicholson said he hoped to create an area that’s accessible to current Lynn residents.

“If you drive down the Lynnway and you see what’s there now and what could be there on the Atlantic Ocean,” Nicholson said. “And we do have a harbor master plan that I think is a great framework for us to be thinking about how to create a real neighborhood there that brings in the kind of development that will power our growth, but does it in a way that is met with the rest of the city and includes the rest of the city. A real hallmark of that approach is the jewel of a park that we're hoping to create on top of landfill now, that is going to be capped, similar to what was done with Spectacle Island.”

In the coming years, the city will also see its commuter rail stop closed for renovations — near Frederick Douglass Park, named for the abolitionist and statesman who briefly lived in Lynn.

“Lynn is severely underserved by mass transit. We have that one commuter rail station. And commuter rail is great, and lot of people rely on it. It's also not affordable relative to other options,” Nicholson said. “We are absolutely grateful for the investment that we're going to be getting from the state and federal government to redo that station. It sorely needs it. But it is going to result in that station not being in service for upwards of three or more years.”

There will be shuttle from Lynn to a commuter rail station in Swampscott, and eventually a temporary platform in Lynn passengers can use.

“It's a first step in a lot of steps we need to take here in Lynn to have the kind of transportation that we need,” Nicholson said. “Improving bus service, hopefully getting ferry access and in the medium term, electrifying the commuter rail, so we have something approaching rapid transit here for the city. But, you know, it's positive, forward momentum.”

An aerial view of Lynn's waterfront, with renderings of new buildings and a park superimposed over the existing coastline.
A 2019 rendering of Lynn's waterfront development plan
Courtesy City of Lynn

Does Nicholson think in some ways that Lynn has been forgotten?

“We certainly are advocating as best we can for and the resources we think we need,” he said. “I think we all agree that Lynn has been underserved and we're fighting really hard to fix that. And these are longstanding problems that are not limited to Lynn. We think about the housing crisis and addressing affordability. It's a Lynn issue because it's affecting our residents and we need to do right by them by working on it. But it's also a regional issue or even a national issue.”

Lynn is also getting ready to experiment with an unarmed crisis response team, which will be dispatched to people in crisis instead of police officers. This is something new for Lynn, and something a lot of communities around the state and around the nation are thinking about in response to police brutality.

“My hope for that endeavor is that it leads to a successful program that helps our community find more peace,” Nicholson said. “There's been pushback. There's lots of questions. And really a lot of those questions are valid in terms of thinking of how is this going to work? Who are these folks going to be, what training they're going to have? How is this going to fit into the way that we do public safety now?”

There is not yet a start date for the program.

“We’re working really hard to think through those answers in a way that brings voices out from the community,” Nicholson said. “I think there's a ton of potential for us to move forward on this, and there really is a tremendous need in the community.”