PEABODY — Mayor Michael Bonfanti, with tears in his eyes, announced last night that he will not seek re-election when his fifth term as the city's top executive is up at the end of this year.
"You have heard me say that I view the position of mayor as a steward; a steward of the land, entrusted with the position for a period of time to strive to nurture, cultivate and improve the land and make it better than it was, then pass it on to the next steward," Bonfanti said last night as he concluded his annual mid-term address at Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall.
"I have strived with all my heart, soul and being to be worthy of that honor. It is now time," he said, then pausing as tears welled in his eyes. "It is now time that I relinquish my stewardship of the city and consequently I will not seek re-election."
A collective sense of surprise then engulfed some 200 people in the hall, and everyone stood up to cheer as Bonfanti relinquished the microphone and went back to his seat at the head of the City Council table.
"He kept it close to his vest," said newly elected Peabody City Council President Anne Manning-Martin, who admitted she did not know of the mayor's plans. She wasn't surprised, however.
"He's been there 10 years. He's a good man, who has done a lot for the city. He's put in a lot of hard work the last 10 years," she said. "Am I surprised? No. He's put in a lot of hours away from his family."
"Peabody has been served by a very honest, hardworking guy. He has leather in his blood, and I mean that in the most complimentary way," said longtime School Committee member David McGeney, who ran against Bonfanti for mayor of the Tanner City, when the mayor was first elected back in 2001.