SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 1, 2013

Now you tell me

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt says he was not aware of fire Chief Steve Pasdon’s objections to the decision to take the police and fire chief out of Civil Service.

“I’m moving forward,” Bettencourt added, noting that the change is a done deal.

Pasdon recently told the News that he withheld his opinion to avoid a political argument, but he feels that some future mayor, lacking Bettencourt’s ethical standards, could politicize the office, using a chief’s desire to have his contract renewed for leverage.

Under Civil Service, removing employees can be more difficult, which might give a chief increased independence, he suggested. Pasdon remains under Civil Service, despite the passage of a home-rule petition on Beacon Hill taking future Peabody chiefs out of the system.

The mayor pointed out that the change was done with near-unanimous support from the City Council and the Legislature.

“It’s the right thing for the city,” he said.

Notwithstanding some instances of corruption in the distant past, he maintained that voters should have confidence in their ability to choose good leaders.

“They shouldn’t be fearful of what a potential mayor in the future will do.”

Champagne watch

Police Chief Robert Champagne, meanwhile, had announced his plan to retire at the end of May. Then, Bettencourt’s petition to take the selection of a new chief out of Civil Service passed. To facilitate a smooth transition to the next chief and give the mayor more time for the selection process, Champagne agreed to stay on and has remained up until now.

But retirement beckons. Bettencourt expects Champagne will leave before the end of August.

Choose one

Barry Osborne is one of three ward councilors who might be able to take it a little easier this year — along with Bob Driscoll and Barry Sinewitz — as he has no opponent in the November election.

“Obviously,” he says, “it’s a little bit of a relief. Although I enjoy campaigning.”

It won’t keep him off the streets, where he walks regularly as part of a fitness program that’s seen him drop a significant amount of weight. He hopes to keep in touch with Ward 1 voters along the way. The lack of an opponent, he says, gives councilors more time, much of it to be spent on issues.

The councilor is honest enough to admit that politicians often cannot help but take it personally when someone tries to usurp their position by running against them.

“You try not to. But to say you don’t take it personally is probably not true,” he says.

It’s best to separate the politics from the personal and keep it all in perspective, he believes. He notes that he’s run campaigns against people who are friends.

“There are always people who are going to disagree with you,” he says.

Having an opponent can create benefits, Osborne adds, causing a politician to assess what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. “You start doing some soul searching.”

No such thing as a free lunch

Bettencourt also lacks an opponent for November, but it never hurts to raise money. His re-election committee will hold “an old-fashioned Summer Picnic ... at the Kennedy Field in W. Peabody on Sunday, August 11th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ... Everyone is welcome!” according to a press release. Food will be “available for purchase.”

Sarge more in charge

New Peabody police Lt. Thomas O’Keefe was promoted in a ceremony at City Hall yesterday.

O’Keefe has served nearly 20 years in the department as a full-time officer, winning a spot in 1994 and taking a promotion to sergeant in 2001. Bettencourt saluted his commitment to “public service. ... His promotion to lieutenant reflects that commitment and underscores his qualifications for this new role.”

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.