NEW BEDFORD — For nearly fifty years, Arthur Caron, Jr. served the City of New Bedford in the Solicitor's Office, handling a vast swath of legal issues and contract negotiations under nine mayoral administrations.

"He was a highly skilled negotiator. He could've done the North Korea deal on behalf of the United States much more skillfully than the current occupant of the White House," said Mayor Jon Mitchell.

"He had just this encyclopedic knowledge of not only the city and its history, but also of municipal law and labor law in particular."

Caron wore many hats during his service to the City from 1969 to 2016, serving as Assistance City Solicitor, City Solicitor, Corporation Counsel, and Special Labor Counsel. He was also the City's first Personnel Director.

Caron passed away in January 2018 at the age of 80.

He was such a vital part of the municipal central nervous system in City Hall that the City commissioned an oil portrait of Caron, which was unveiled Friday afternoon on the third floor of New Bedford City Hall.

Dozens of people, including Mayor Jon Mitchell and former mayors Scott Lang, Frederick Kalisz, Rosemary Tierney, John Bullard, and John Markey, attended the anticipated unveiling of the portrait by renowned city artist Deborah Macy.

Arthur's son, Jim Caron, says his father enjoyed his work, and never took anything expressed during tense negotiation sessions to heart.

"Absolutely the best compliments that I get are the people who he sat across the table from that come up to me and say, 'God, you know, I negotiated with him, but afterwards, at the end of the day we'd go out and get a beer and just talk about things.' Sometimes even in the middle of the day he'd go out and grab a beer," Jim Caron recalled, prompting laughter from the crowd. "And that's ok. It was a different time."

Caron was a graduate of New Bedford High School and Northeastern University. He received his J.D. from Boston College Law School and a master's in labor law from New York University.

He was a U.S. Army veteran, having served as a captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps with the First Cavalry Division in Korea. He later served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense under Secretaries Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford.

Caron returned to New Bedford in 1968, joining the law firm of Downey and Jacobs. He was appointed Assistant City Solicitor by Mayor Edward F. Harrington.

"He cared. He just cared so much at a very personal level," said Mayor Mitchell. "So as much as a great guy he was, and as talented as he was, at his core he just loved the City. And that's just indispensable for us."

Caron's portrait will be installed at the Lawler Library on Rockdale Avenue in the City Solicitor's Office Law Library room, which has been named in Caron's honor.