By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Mayor Edward “Ted” Bettencourt will run for re-election in November.
“I think this has been a successful beginning,” he told The Salem News yesterday, “but there’s a great deal of work yet to be done. ... We’re moving in the right direction, and better days are ahead.”
With his first full year in office behind him, Bettencourt is pointing to accomplishments that include bringing city employees under the state health care program, the Group Insurance Commission, which he predicts will save the city millions of dollars.
He also cited the plan to build a new middle school to replace the aging Higgins building.
“That’s obviously a massive project for the city,” he said, “and I want to be part of it.”
Deciding to run again, he said, was “a very easy decision. ... This is a job I greatly love and an opportunity to move Peabody forward.”
His decision is not a surprise, and at least two veteran political figures expressed doubt that he will face a challenger.
“Other than some gadfly — and I say that respectfully — I don’t think there’ll be anyone challenging him,” City Councilor Jim Liacos said.
“I can’t think of anyone that would do it, as popular as he’s been from day one,” said Mike Schulze, former head of the Democratic City Committee.
When Bettencourt was a councilor-at-large, Schulze noted, he regularly topped the ticket. As mayor, “he’s been just a whirling dervish in that office, nonstop.”
Bettencourt is shepherding the renovation of Main Street in the downtown. In the coming year, he’s hoping to make a similar effort “rebranding” Centennial Park and attracting new businesses.
Having saved money by consolidating the positions of personnel director at City Hall and in the schools, Bettencourt said he might do something similar with a proposed position of facilities and grounds manager.
“It’s necessary in a tight economy to extend the life of buildings,” he said.
He takes special pride in another innovation, the Veterans Day Breakfast, a gathering of some of the city’s most honored men and women.
“It drove home the point about pride in the city,” he said, adding that it will be an annual event.
Among the downsides of the job, he cites the necessity of making tough personnel decisions, letting people go and deciding between hopefuls for city positions.
“Those things are never easy,” he said.
If anything has surprised him, it’s the amount of time he’s had to put into being mayor. With three young children, “there have been moments that it’s been difficult, but I’m very fortunate. I have a great support system.” He still manages to coach the kids in soccer and basketball.
His announcement comes with the full support of his wife, Andrea, he said.
With $15,000 in his campaign account, the mayor is beginning an effort to raise more with a fundraiser on Saturday. He hopes to match the roughly $90,000 he collected in the 2011 contest.
“He’s done very well,” Liacos said. “He’s careful, and he plods along and he’s good at making decisions. ... A lot of people would like to be mayor, but he’d be very difficult to beat.”
Peabody has had little experience voting out sitting mayors, Schulze noted. As for this one, “He’s very popular. He’s been a good mayor.”
For Bettencourt, serving as mayor is something he’s always wanted to do, he said.
“I’m right where I want to be,” he said, looking around the corner office. “... I couldn’t imagine not having this in my life.”
Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.