NEW BEDFORD — Former New Bedford Mayor and current Southern Bristol County Register of Deeds Dr. Frederick M. Kalisz, Jr. has passed away due to complications with COVID-19.

Kalisz’s brother Michael Kalisz posted the news on Facebook just before 8 a.m. that the former mayor had died this morning. He was 63 years old.

Fred Kalisz was sworn into office on January 5, 1998, and served eight years as mayor before he was defeated by Scott W. Lang. Prior to his time as mayor, Kalisz served eight years on the New Bedford City Council, including serving as council president. He had also served almost four and a half years as program manager for the Buzzards Bay Project.

After leaving office, Kalisz – who had a doctorate in public policy and law – focused mostly on education. He was a senior leadership fellow at UMass Dartmouth’s Charlton College of Business and taught courses on government and business law to college and graduate students. He also spent eight years as a lobbyist for Catholic schools in Massachusetts.

In March of 2017, Kalisz returned to government to step into the role of Southern Bristol County Register of Deeds, after J. Mark Treadup stepped down for health reasons after filling the role for more than 15 years. Kalisz was appointed to replace him by the Bristol County Commissioner’s Board and was elected to continue in that position in November 2018 for what would have been a six-year term.

Kalisz graduated from Bishop Stang High School in 1975 and from what was then Southeastern Massachusetts University, now UMass Dartmouth, in 1979.

He is survived by his wife, Pat, and his son, Ricky.

Hear WBSM's Barry Richard and Jim Phillips talk about Fred Kalisz's legacy in New Bedford:

“I am truly saddened because we maintained a friendly relationship after he was mayor,” former Mayor Brian Lawler told WBSM's Phil Paleologos. “He took the job more seriously than everyone else, I thought, because he was overly concerned about the budget, he paid a lot of attention to detail, he knew what was going on, he worked hard at it, he was one of those people you always refer to as one of the good guys.”

“Fred was a true son of New Bedford,” former city solicitor and longtime Kalisz friend George Leontire told WBSM's Chris McCarthy. “He never left New Bedford...The best words I could use is ‘common man,’ because he never forgot his working-class parents or background, never forgot the people of New Bedford.”

“Most of all, Fred was a people person,” Leontire said. “He never had a negative word to say about virtually anyone. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Anyone who called him, friend or foe or common man, who needed help, he was always there for them.”

"I’m saddened to hear the news about the passing of our friend and colleague, former Mayor, City Councilor and Register of Deeds Fred Kalisz," tweeted Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. "I had the privilege of serving with him on the City Council and witnessed first-hand his dedication to public service and his love for New Bedford. Like so many people who were fortunate to have him cross their path along life’s journey, I am enriched as a person and blessed that I could call him a colleague and friend. Please keep his wife, son and family in your thoughts and prayers."

New Bedford City Councilor Brian Gomes served on the council with Kalisz in the 1990s and also ran against him for mayor as well. Gomes told WBSM's Barry Richard that while the two did not get along during their time as political colleagues, they became friends later in life:

Former Mayor Scott W. Lang issued the following statement to WBSM News:

“The City of New Bedford lost a lifelong public servant today. The Lang Family extends its sincere sympathy to Mayor Kalisz’s wife, Pat, his son, Ricky, his brother Mike and Marlene and sister Chris and Joe McIntyre. Mayor Kalisz accomplished a great deal for the citizens of the City of New Bedford during his Administration and he was currently doing an outstanding job as the Bristol County Register of Deeds. His untimely death from the COVID-19 virus is a grim reminder that we all must be vigilant in protecting our families and ourselves from this deadly Pandemic. I am sure Mayor Kalisz would want each of the citizens of our City to double their efforts to stay safe and well until the vaccine is generally available. History will show that Mayor Kalisz loved the City of New Bedford and the people who he served.”

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell issued the following statement:

“I was saddened to learn this morning of the sudden passing of former Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz, Jr., a dedicated public servant and a steadfast friend. Mayor Kalisz served as City Councilor for Ward 2 before his election as Mayor in 1997, eventually becoming New Bedford’s third-longest serving mayor.

Mayor Kalisz’s tenure was marked by an unwavering devotion to the City and its residents. He worked tirelessly to improve every city neighborhood, and strove over his four terms to activate the city’s potential. Among his many accomplishments, he established the New Bedford Economic Development Council in its current form, oversaw the construction of three state-of-the-art middle schools, created a new permanent home for SeaLab, renovated the Buttonwood Park Zoo, and led the resumption of ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard. All of these efforts paved the way for more progress thereafter. Mayor Kalisz poured his heart into the job, and New Bedford is the better for it.

After leaving office in 2006, he continued to serve others – earning a doctorate, leading the Parents Alliance for Catholic Education, and serving as Register of Deeds for Bristol County’s southern district since 2017. He also continued his lifelong commitment to volunteering at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the city’s only remaining ethnically Polish Catholic church.

I will miss Fred’s encouragement and support over the years, and I will miss our friendship. Ann and I offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife Pat, his son Ricky, and his many friends and family.

In observance of Mayor Kalisz’s passing, I have ordered the flags at all City buildings be flown at half-staff.”

Hear Mayor Mitchell and WBSM's Barry Richard discuss Fred Kalisz:

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