NORTH ADAMS -- It began with a State House press conference and concurrently released YouTube video, now at over 500,000 views, on May 31.
In the months that followed, John A. Barrett III, current city councilor and former mayor of 26 years, would find himself traveling five battleground states in support of President Barack Obama's re-election, party to what domestic and international press have deemed one of the most well-organized campaigns ever run.
Barrett was part of a power bloc of former and current state mayors assembled by the Obama camp to shed light on Republican challenger Mitt Romney's four years as Massachusetts' 70th governor, from 2003 to 2007.
"We were the truth squad," Barrett said in an interview Thursday. "Not once did anyone challenge us on what we said [on the campaign trail]."
Barrett, who was among Romney's most vociferous critics while the latter was governor, relished the role, saying May's State House meeting "got [his] juices flowing," as Romney's campaign had caught wind and sent representatives to engage in some political gunplay, shouting over the mayors as they spoke.
"It was real in-your-face politics," Barrett said. "[Obama's Senior Strategist] David Axelrod leaned toward me at one point and said, 'This is rough even by Chicago's standards.' "
The mayors weathered the conference, cut their YouTube add, spoke to media and left -- whereupon several, Barrett included, were called back into the fray to hit the road: Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire and Tampa, Fla., to rebut August's Republican National Convention.
Over the stretch, Barrett talked strategy with the Obama campaign's biggest players -- Axelrod, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter.
"The funny part of it is, they're just regular people," Barrett said. "It's nice to know."
Deployed in states alongside Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Robert J. Dolan with increased frequency as election day approached, Barrett said the three would hit newsrooms, radio stations and Obama campaign offices, cutting ads, visiting town and city halls and pressing the flesh all along the way.
At times, the triumvirate would travel 500-600 miles in two days, hitting cities and small towns alike.
"You don't exactly expect to find yourself in Goochland County, Virginia," Barrett said. "But I can tell you: The people there are some of the nicest you'll ever meet."
They laughingly triumphed over any lift in the polls Obama would see in a particular state after their departure.
"We'd always take credit for it," Barrett joked.
Joking aside, the mayors were glad to see their message adopted as the campaign wore on, as a more central part of the case against Romney.
They pointed out things both big and small about Romney's governing -- the overall message being Romney's failures at bipartisanship and crafting an effective economic plan while holding the state's highest office.
Romney walked out of a 2007 meeting of 40 state mayors -- while Barrett, as the longest serving, was "Dean of Mass Mayors" -- never to call the group together again.
He raised fees by $750 million as governor, so that he might later tout tax cuts during a run for higher office -- this while concurrently instituting harmful cuts to education, local aid and more. The cost of higher education rose by 60 percent under Romney. The former Governor logged 800 plus vetoes.
And -- two of Barrett's favorites -- how Romney continually referred to Pittsfield as "Springfield" at a Pittsfield Chamber of Commerce meeting during one of his only visits to the Berkshires as governor; and the call Romney put in to Barrett early in his term, to say he was in town viewing flood damages -- while, in fact, he was in Greenfield.
Barrett believes he and the mayors' message caught on, and overall, it wasn't a bad gig for a former mayor of the commonwealth's smallest city, he concluded Thursday.
To reach Phil Demers, email