SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 25, 2011

7 vie for councilor-at-large in Peabody

By Jesse Roman
Staff writer

PEABODY — Seven candidates are vying for five councilor-at-large seats that are up for election Nov. 8. Yesterday, The Salem News profiled four candidates, Tom Gould, Bob Croce, Michael Garabedian and David Gravel. The other three candidates are profiled today.

RUSSELL DONOVAN

Address: 12 Quail Road

Age: 62

Education: Northeastern University, B.S., business administration, 1979; Franklin Institute of Boston, associate's degree, electronic engineering, 1974.

Previous elective office: None

Employment: Retired from G.E. River Works

Family: Donna, wife; Diana, Jennifer, daughters; Shawn, son.

If elected, will you use the city's health insurance? No

Russell Donovan, who has lived in the same house on Quail Road for 35 years, is a common sight at City Hall and at City Council meetings, despite never holding office.

A vociferous consumer of news and an avid fan of local politics, Donovan has run for both councilor-at-large and Ward 1 councilor in the past and lost each time. He also ran for mayor in 2008, losing to Mayor Michael Bonfanti. He thinks this is his time.

"After many years of participation and interest in City Council matters and various city functions, I believe I will bring to the City Council a great amount of historical knowledge on many city issues," he said.

Donovan is a big proponent of adopting a homeowners personal real estate tax exemption in Peabody, which he said would lower taxes on primary residences and tax investment properties at a higher rate.

"A 2007 study done by the city assessor's office stated that nearly 85 percent of the Peabody homeowners would have seen real estate tax reductions had the exemption been instituted that year," he said. "After 10 years of tax increases, it's time to reassess how the city pays to run government."

Donovan said reducing the cost of government and lowering taxes would be his first priority on the City Council.

"We have to reshape city government, perhaps reinvent city government," he said. "We can't afford the current government model, pay and benefits structure. The Peabody taxpayer is going broke at the expense of government."

JAMES LIACOS

Address: 3 Cosmos Drive

Age: 59

Education: University of Massachusetts Amherst, B.S., environmental studies and open space planning, 1975

Employment: North Shore Community College, professor and chairman of Horticulture Department

Previous elective office: Peabody School Committee, 1980 to 2000; City Council, councilor-at-large, 2000 to present.

If elected, will you use the city's health insurance? No

There is no candidate with more years served in elected public office than Jim Liacos.

Liacos began his career in public service in 1980 when he was elected to the Peabody School Committee, and 20 years later he transitioned to the City Council, where he has been ever since. And he has no intention of leaving this year.

"Especially with the election of a new mayor, our city will need experienced elected officials to move us forward responsibly and promote economic development," he said. "Having served the people of Peabody since 1980, I bring the experience and record of achievement that will help keep the city on the right track."

The right track is to continue efforts to revitalize downtown, by going forward with the already approved changes on Main Street and also by working to end the flooding that has plagued the area, Liacos said.

"It would be pointless to go forward with a downtown revitalization without implementing adequate flood mitigation measures," he said.

Liacos' years of experience on the council, including chairing the Finance Committee, "will help ensure that this work is planned, budgeted and executed properly so as to avoid a weakening of our bond rating or a spike in taxes," he said. "It is crucial that we remain in a position of financial strength if we are to foster economic development, broaden our tax base and undertake necessary revitalization projects. ... I will continue to do everything I can to keep Peabody an affordable, safe and vibrant community."

ANNE MANNING-MARTIN

Address: 37 Dexter St.

Age: 45

Education: St. Anselm College, Bachelor of Arts, 1988; University of Massachusetts Lowell, master's program, 1992.

Employment: Deputy superintendent, Department of Correction

Previous elective office: Peabody School Committee 2000 to 2007, Peabody City Council, councilor-at-large, 2008 to present.

Family: Jack Martin, husband

If elected, will you use the city's health insurance? No

City Council President Anne Manning-Martin says she is proud and privileged to have served four years on the City Council, and she is eager to continue.

The big push over the next couple of years is going to be the continuation of efforts currently under way to improve the downtown for businesses and residents, she said.

"I strongly believe that a healthy downtown is a symbol of community pride and history," she said. "We have made great advancements in this regard over the last two years. Peabody is poised for great things; I can feel it, I can see it, and I want to be a part of it."

The revitalization of downtown is one step toward attracting more businesses to Peabody and expanding the tax base, but there are a lot of things the city should be doing, Manning-Martin said.

"We must be creative and aggressive in broadening our tax base by enticing new businesses to our great city while assisting those businesses that have made a commitment to our city," she said. "We need to be open to having frank discussions about the way we do business in the city, be open to new ideas and work together to present Peabody as a competitor in the future job market."

Manning-Martin has been working to position Peabody as a Green Community, which will give the city access to state funds and be useful in marketing and attracting green businesses and clean technologies, she said.

The city should do a better job marketing Centennial Park as "the perfect fit for these businesses who are outgrowing their current locations and are actively looking to relocate as they expand," she said.

"I say, 'Why not Peabody?' I look forward to continued work and open dialogue with my colleagues on this very important initiative."