By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — It took the City Council just six minutes to elect a new council president last night, a unanimous vote for Ward 4 Councilor Jerry Ryan.
The proceedings were a striking contrast to the council’s last meeting, a seven-hour marathon that ended in a stalemate. Despite voting 300 times, the board could not agree on a candidate to fill a councilor-at-large vacancy created by the resignation of Joan Lovely.
Last night, councilors seemed to have agreed on Ryan before the meeting. There was no discussion before a 10-0 vote was taken six minutes into the meeting.
Ryan is in his sixth year on the board and previously served as council president in 2011.
As he took the rostrum, Ryan called for a “renewed spirit of cooperation.”
“That does not mean we will all agree on every issue,” he said. “But as long as we can agree to respectfully disagree, and do so in the context of finding solutions to the problems with which we are faced, we will be fine.”
Mayor Kim Driscoll also called for collaboration in her State of the City address last night (see related story).
The council will continue its attempt to select an 11th member tonight at 6 at City Hall, 93 Washington St.
Last night, several councilors said it’s looking like a compromise will be reached, but declined to name who the appointee might be.
There were “a lot of phone calls” made between councilors over the weekend, Ryan said, both about the council presidency and at-large vacancy.
“Quite frankly, I think it’s going to be a pretty quick meeting,” said Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski. “Everybody has to say ‘what’s best for the city’ and put personal feelings aside. We need to step up to the plate and do what the people put us here to do.”
After last week’s meeting, several former councilors and businessman Darek Barcikowski contacted councilors to volunteer as a compromise candidate, Ryan said.
Ryan, who will preside over tonight’s meeting, said he felt it would be unfair to appoint someone outside of the original six residents who submitted letters of interest in the vacancy last month.
The councilor-at-large vacancy was created as Lovely resigned to be sworn into the state Senate. Lovely, as well as Rep. John Keenan, attended last night’s council meeting.
On Thursday, the council took the same tie vote over and over: five councilors backing candidate Steve Pinto and five backing Lucy Corchado. The meeting stretched to 2:25 a.m.
In addition to former councilors Pinto and Corchado, the candidate pool included William Legault, a freelance writer and personal trainer who is well-known around town; Chris Sicuranza, director of communications for the New England Police Benevolent Association; Robert Wright, a college teacher with a lengthy background in state government; and Ken Sawicki, who has run unsuccessfully for multiple offices.
Yesterday, Barcikowski said he sent councilors a letter over the weekend, offering to be appointed if it would break the board’s stalemate.
“Obviously, plan A didn’t work, so we need a plan B,” Barcikowski said. “... I decided, if I can be part of the solution, why not?”
Circumstances have changed since December, when Barcikowski was initially interested in filling the council vacancy, he said. At the time, Barcikowski spoke with all the councilors and realized he didn’t have the support of the six people needed for a majority vote.
Since Thursday, Barcikowski said he received a flurry of calls and emails from people asking him to reconsider.
“They (the council) know who I am, they know what I bring to the table,” he said. “... I think all the lobbying that can be done on this matter has been done. ... On the chance that they do decide to look beyond (the six candidates that expressed interest in the vacancy) ... I put my name into the mix. If they decide the pool is closed and need to find a solution within the six, that’s absolutely fine.”
Barcikowski is co-founder of White Eagle Media, a publisher of Polish-language newspapers. He has never held public office in Salem.
In the fall of 2011, he came in fifth in a competitive councilor-at-large race. Then-incumbent Councilor Steve Pinto came in sixth behind Barcikowski.
Staff writer Tom Dalton contributed to this article.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.