As Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria seeks a sixth term, he’s comparing himself to a legend of Massachusetts politics.

“[What] most people want is their trash picked up, is their sidewalks fixed, is their pothole taken care of, their streets plowed during the winter,” DeMaria said.

“A lot of residents who’ve moved from Boston call me mini-Menino,” he added. “You know, ’cause Tom was that type of mayor. He was the urban mechanic, right? On the street, every day, talking to residents.”

DeMaria’s affinity for civic engineering includes system building as well as everyday tweaks. He gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about Everett’s groundbreaking bus-rapid-transit system, and how expanding it could rein in housing costs.

“The state could run bus service on Rutherford Ave., connect to North Station, with a turnaround at Haymarket,” he said. “Now you’re connected, Everett to Boston. Now you can connect Malden, Melrose, Saugus, the North Shore… That unlocks the potential for us to build more housing. So you have an increased amount of supply, what happens? Prices come down.”

But DeMaria’s re-election bid involves a hurdle Menino never had to clear: an ongoing, citywide reckoning with the politics of race.

Gerly Adrien, one of DeMaria’s two challengers, is the first Black woman on Everett’s city council. She’s accused several colleagues of a sustained, hostile response since her election in 2019, when she topped the at-large ticket.

“Before I got inaugurated… one of my council colleagues told me that if I didn’t change my behavior, they were going to make my journey on the council miserable,” Adrien said.

“Four months in, I realized that when it came to speaking during the council meeting, there was always an issue,” she added. “Other people were allowed to speak [however] long they wanted to speak… I was brought up about the rules every single time. And one of my colleagues went on social media and said that I was trying to destroy the city.”

Tensions came to a head in October 2020, during a council session in which Adrien — who had successfully pushed for a remote-meeting option during COVID-19 — encountered technical difficulties as she tried to participate.

“During the breaks, they were talking about me in a really bad manner, and I heard them — they didn’t know I could hear them — and I said, ‘That’s not how it should be,’” Adrien said. “We started the council meeting, and then four of my colleagues asked me to resign. I thought it was a joke.”

Adrien also describes a fraught relationship with DeMaria. In February 2021, after the mayor said Adrien was behaving disruptively during a Zoom meeting, she wrote a Boston Globe opinion piece titled “As a Black woman in politics, I belong here.

According to Adrien, those experiences ultimately drove her to run for mayor herself.

“Our mayor has not had a challenger since 2013 — in eight years,” she said. “Our city demographically has changed so much. We’re a majority people of color now… I truly believe that people are going to come out and say, ‘We’ve had enough, and we want change.’”

Recent U.S. Census data shows that Everett's demographics changed radically between 2010 and 2020, with white residents dropping from 54 to 34 percent of the population.

Adrien is also sharply critical of DeMaria’s policymaking — saying, among other things, that he has underfunded Everett’s schools and hasn’t done enough to protect affordable housing.

“Boston and Somerville, they have an office [of] housing stability,” Adrien said. “We have nothing like that, at all. The number one-issue in Everett right now is housing. How do we not have a department that handles this?”

The third candidate in the race — Fred Capone, a city councilor with two separate stints in city government totaling nearly two decades — offers a similar critique.

“We are overbuilding on every square inch of property in the city,” Capone said. “We’re destroying our neighborhoods, we’re overburdening our infrastructure, we’re congesting our streets. We’re focusing so much on luxury housing, and we’re ignoring affordable housing, which is a huge issue for the city.”

Capone accuses DeMaria of taking an imperial approach to governance, saying he makes big, expensive decisions without getting buy-in from the public.

“Often times on the city council, I don’t know when we have a new hire [or] there’s a new program happening until I read it in the newspaper or until I see it on Facebook,” Capone said.

“If I, as an elected official, am not involved in the process, think about what the average resident’s involvement with the process is,” he added. “And that’s just wrong. That’s not good government."

A lot has changed since DeMaria’s last contested race. In 2014, the Boston Globe reported that four women had accused him of sexual harassment, claims DeMaria forcefully denied.

In 2019, Encore Boston Harbor brought big-time gambling to Everett. Adrien argues that revenues from the casino are too opaque, while Capone says DeMaria should have extracted more concessions from Wynn Resorts before striking a deal.

Recently, Everett has been one of the Massachusetts communities hit hardest by COVID-19.

Neither Capone nor Adrien criticized the city’s handling of the pandemic in recent interviews, and DeMaria says his administration rose to the challenge.

“Vaccinating 10,000 residents in a city-run vaccine clinic,” DeMaria said. “You know, sending masks to every resident in the city. Making sure every resident gets tested free.”

On September 21, Everett voters will get to have their say in the city’s preliminary election. As in Boston, where the prelim will be held one week earlier, the top two finishers will advance to November’s final.