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December 24, 2013

End of an era

Scanlon looks back on a record 18 years in office

BEVERLY — Bill Scanlon said he never would have become mayor had the city not been in such bad shape.

It was 1993, and Scanlon was known, if he was known at all, as the guy who had laid off 1,000 people at United Shoe, the fading factory that was the city’s largest employer for decades.

But the city was $8 million in debt and staring at the prospect of state receivership. When voters looked at candidate Scanlon’s resume — degrees from MIT and Harvard Business School, with experience turning around distressed companies — they took a chance on him, even though he’d only recently moved to Beverly and had never served in public office.

Twenty years later — minus a two-year exile after his only election loss — Scanlon is in the final days of his historic tenure as the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history.

In an interview in his third-floor office at City Hall, with papers from ongoing projects still spread across the large conference table where he does much of his work, Scanlon acknowledged a “melancholy” aspect to the end of his mayoral run. At the same time, he said, he’s ready to leave.

“I think it’s time,” he said. “Now I’ll have time to read the whole book. I’m looking forward to it.”

Scanlon said he is not one to dwell on past accomplishments. But with his tenure winding down, he has begun to compile a history of his time in office that he calls “18 key steps over 18 years.”

Those key steps include building a new high school, renovating all of the elementary schools, fixing long-standing flooding problems, and improving parks and playgrounds. But for all of those visible projects, Scanlon said he is most proud of the changes he helped make inside the schools.

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