SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 7, 2013

Election brings big changes to Beverly

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — It wasn’t exactly a youth movement. Three of the six newly elected candidates are over 50.

It wasn’t a total throw-out-the-old-guard movement. Six of the eight incumbents were re-elected.

But even if there were no overarching theme explaining Tuesday’s results, the 2013 Beverly election still brought sweeping change to the city’s political landscape.

Voters — or at least the 41 percent who showed up at the polls — elected a new mayor, four new city councilors and one new School Committee member.

“Obviously, the turnover is greater than we’ve seen in recent years,” said Ward 5 City Councilor Don Martin, the one City Council incumbent who did not face any opposition. “I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. Maybe it will be healthy to get some new faces up there and maybe some different ideas.”

The biggest change will come at the top of the ballot, where Mike Cahill beat Wes Slate in the mayor’s race and will succeed Bill Scanlon, who is retiring after a record 18 years in office.

The result was no surprise. Cahill had won six previous citywide elections for state representative or city councilor and nearly knocked off Scanlon two years ago in his first run for mayor. Slate, the Ward 2 city councilor, had never run for office outside of his ward and finished second to Cahill in the preliminary election by more than 1,000 votes.

“It kind of played out exactly as I thought it would,” said Ward 3 Councilor Jim Latter, who supported Cahill. “Mike was a very formidable candidate. I said Wes would run a credible campaign, and he did. I didn’t know if he would make it competitive. (Getting 44 percent of the vote) isn’t horrible.”

Cahill spent early yesterday morning waving to passers-by on Essex Street near Harry Ball Field as a thank-you for his victory. He attended the North Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast and went to his current job as executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs.

Cahill said he will meet with advisers later this week to start planning for the transition. He said he hopes to meet with Scanlon soon, as well as with city councilors and School Committee members.

“A lot of good people put themselves out there as candidates. It was a great election,” Cahill said. “I’m looking forward to working with the new and returning members of both the City Council and School Committee.”

Cahill said he will continue to work for the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs up until the day before he is sworn into office.

As mayor, Cahill will be working with a revamped City Council led once again by Guanci, who as the top vote-getter in the at-large race automatically becomes council president.

Guanci supported Slate in the mayor’s race but said that will not affect his ability to work with Cahill.

“I don’t have anything personal against Michael,” Guanci said. “Wes and I are extremely close friends, and that’s why I supported Wes. I will do whatever I can to move the city forward. I hope there’s no hard feelings. I hope in time that Mike and I will be able to work together.”

Cahill also said he anticipates no problems working with Guanci.

“I’ve always liked Paul, and I always had a good working relationship with him,” Cahill said. “Paul’s a good person, and he serves the city well.”

The election’s biggest surprises came in Ward 6, where incumbents Maria Decker on the School Committee and Brett Schetzsle on the City Council were both knocked off.

Lorinda Visnick, who has been active for years with school PTOs, raised more than three times as much money as Decker, the School Committee president, according to campaign finance records. Decker is in her fourth term but had never faced an opponent.

Former Ward 6 Councilor Pat Grimes said she and others supported Visnick because she will be more transparent and inclusive, two buzz words that ran throughout all of the campaigns. Decker worked closely with Scanlon on the “statement of interest” for the new middle school, a process that has been criticized by some for not including more people.

“The process should include the entire School Committee,” Grimes said. “This is why I strongly supported Lorinda.”

Schetzsle earned a reputation as a first-term councilor who asked tough and informed questions of the mayor. But he was upended by John Frates, a Beverly native from a well-known family who had the support of former Ward 6 Councilor Judith Cronin, his sister-in-law.

“Brett’s always had a full plate with a young family, and he didn’t really have the time to get out and canvas the neighborhoods and get to know as many constituents as he could have,” Guanci said. “He was up against a proven name, a name that people know, and a pretty big family.”

Martin said he lost his first re-election bid in 1991 before regaining the Ward 5 seat six years later.

“I completely understand what Brett is feeling today,” Martin said. “I am living proof that comebacks are possible.”

In the councilor-at-large race, first-time candidates Matt St. Hilaire and Todd Murphy both raised a good amount of money and ran strong campaigns. St. Hilaire grabbed the third and final spot behind incumbents Guanci and Jason Silva, edging out Murphy by 44 votes.

Murphy won five of the city’s six wards, but St. Hilaire rode to victory on the strength of a big win in his home Ward 6.

Despite the close margin, Murphy said he would not seek a recount.

“They got the result right,” he said. “I’m proud for the first time running. I think I did a pretty good job. My hat’s off to Matt and obviously to Paul and Jason, too.”

Estelle Rand and David Lang won open council seats in Ward 1 and Ward 2, respectively, while Latter and Ward 4 Councilor Scott Houseman easily won re-election.

St. Hilaire and Rand will join Silva as the youngest councilors, all at age 36.

In the only other contested School Committee race, Annemarie McNulty-Cesa won re-election by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.