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Flood was elected mayor after having retired as Chairman of the Board of Assessors. He completed over 30 years as a member of that Board. As Mayor, he was responsible for the construction of the new Taunton High School, which replaced the one built in 1919 by his father, former Taunton mayor William Flood.
Known as "The Quiet Mayor", Flood was popular among downtown merchants because he walked daily to City Hall from his home behind Morton Hospital, stopping and greeting everyone as he went. He was defeated in the election of 1971, in part because he refused to actively campaign while devoting his time to his wife, Anna, who was then quite ill. Flood felt vindicated when in 1974 when he was elected to the City Council and served several terms.
Joseph E. Flood, whose mayoral term in the early 1970s marked a period of transition and change for Taunton, died Monday Apr 08, 1991 at Morton Hospital after a short illness. Husband of Anna M. (Ronan) Flood, he was 89 and a resident of 16 Hope Street. The 56-year political career which ended with Flood's retirement in 1985 was the continuation of a family tradition. His late father, J. William Flood, served as mayor from 1916 to 1919. There has been only one other father-son mayoral pair in Taunton's history: Willis K. Hodgman (1894) and Willis K. Hodgman Jr. (1930-1931)
"Joe" Flood was first elected an assessor in 1940, and became chairman of the Board of Assessors in 1951. In 1967 he announced his candidacy for mayor, but later withdrew due to financial reasons. It was in 1969 that Flood won election to the mayoralty, defeating the man would succeed him two years later, Rudolph H. DeSilva. In a Daily Gazette interview a few days after the election, Flood made it clear that his financial expertise would be called into play during his administration. "Financial control" was to be the watchword for the two years to come. The fiscal austerity that guided the Flood years came in the form of repeated calls to department heads to keep a line on expenses, and in Flood's opposition to the Taunton Municipal Light Plant's planned expansion. Flood's view of his role as a fiscal watchdog coincided with the city's limited prospects at the start of the 1970s. Southeastern Massachusetts was still feeling the effect of the massive exodus of its textile industries to the South (the giant Mount Hope Finishing Company had left North Dighton in 1950) and there was little industrial land readily available in Taunton to attract new development.
The flow of federal funding that marked President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" during the 1960s had been cut to a trickle, and Taunton would no longer be able to rely on aid from Washington to fund large-scale projects such as the water and sewer improvements undertaken by Flood's predecessor, Mayor Benjamin A. Friedman. The federally funded urban renewal project that had been launched during the Cleary and Friedman administrations had completed its "slum clearance" phase in the High Street area, but had not yet brought in any new businesses. A flurry of postwar construction had seen the addition of Maxham, Mulchay, Pole and Bennett Schools and two low-income housing projects as well as elderly housing complexes. But the badly needed new Taunton High School was still a few years away from construction.
Taunton was a member of the newly formed Bristol-Plymouth Regional School District which was building a modern vocational school to serve a five community area, and the state was building a new ice rink near the Old Baylies Estate. In April 1970, the city officially took ownership of the estate property, which was earmarked as the site of the new THS building.
Flood's mayoral term also saw the construction of the city's Department of Public Work's Garage and the beginning of the state's deinstitutionalization policy which was to drastically reduce the in-patient population at Taunton State Hospital and Dever State School, creating a demand for halfway houses and cooperative apartments in the community.
In the State of City address at the start of his second year in office, Flood again called for belt tightening at all levels of municipal government. He joined in an effort by mayors throughout the state for increased local aid from Beacon Hill.
Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Flood administration was in his appointing of several individuals who would shape the city's development in the subsequent decades: Robert A. Calvey to the TMLP Commission, Leon J. Bunk to the Conservation Commission, 21-year-old Michael A. Botelho (who later served as a Judge in Arkansas) as his executive assistant, and William A. McAloon as mayoral secretary and later head of the Taunton Industrial Development Commission. The TIDC took shape during the Flood years as a branch of city government charged with coordinating all efforts towards marketing and managing of the city's industrial resources. The TIDC and its offshoots, the Taunton Industrial Financing Authority and the Taunton Development Corporation, would provide a framework of continuity throughout several mayoral administrations in the 1970s and ‘80s as Myles Standish Industrial Park was developed.
Flood eased up on his opposition to the TMLP project after the light plant commission, with Flood's appointee Calvey at its helm, pressed for a combines-cycle generating plant, the first of its kind in the country. Later, the so-called Unit 9, built on Somerset Avenue, would be joined by the Unit 8 (Cleary) generating station from West Water Street to be jointly known as the Cleary-Flood Generating Station, honoring Mayors Bernard F. Cleary and Flood.
After losing out in his bid for a second mayoral term, Flood continued in public service as one of the city's most popular councilmen. He consistently ran at or near the top of the ballot from his first council race in 1973, until his decision not to seek re-election in 1985.
A reception was held in Flood's honor in March 1983, when the Taunton Public Library auditorium was named for him. Flood was an enthusiastic supporter of the library, and he was the recipient of an achievement award from the Taunton Area Chamber of Commerce in 1986.
A charter member of the Portuguese American Civic Club, he also belonged to the Gaelic Society and Taunton Lodge of Elks Lodge 150. He attended St. Mary's Church and was educated at St. Mary's Grammar and High Schools. A native and lifelong resident of Taunton, he was the son of the late J. William and Winifred (Hines) Flood. Besides his widow, he is survived by a son, Joseph E. Flood Jr. of Taunton; a daughter, Cecelia A. Flood of Taunton; a sister, Ruth Grundy of Taunton; three grandchildren, Michael S. Flood of Northampton and Terrance W./ Flood and Meribah W. Flood, both of Taunton; and several nephews and nieces.
- Public records City of Taunton
- "Learning the Political Ropes ... my early days in Taunton with Mayors Cleary, Friedman and Flood" unpublished memoirs of Judge Michael A. Botelho
- source: Tuesday Apr 09, 1991 Taunton Daily Gazette page 7