This is the second in a series of stories about the candidates for Beverly mayor.
BEVERLY — When Mike Cahill ran for state representative in 1993, he was a teacher and coach who had never sought political office before.
But he had one advantage his opponent did not: a large, well-known family with deep ties in the community.
"The first time I ran for state representative, I became aware that I was elected because of all the goodwill generated by my family," Cahill said.
At 49, with five terms as a state rep and two years as a City Council president on his ré©sumé©, Cahill is no longer a political novice. Now he's hoping to parlay both his hometown popularity and his public service experience into a chance to become mayor.
Cahill is one of three proven vote-getters, along with incumbent Mayor Bill Scanlon and former City Council President Tim Flaherty, who will meet in Tuesday's preliminary election. U.S. Army veteran Euplio "Rick" Marciano is also on the ballot. The top two finishers will advance to the Nov. 8 final election.
Cahill is one of six sons of the late William Cahill, who served as a Ward 6 alderman in the 1960s, and the late Jeanne Cahill, a longtime teacher in the city's public schools. His brother Bill Cahill is a former School Committee president. Mike Cahill's strength as a candidate became evident in 2009 when he topped the ballot in the City Council at-large race despite a seven-year absence from political office.
Cahill acknowledged that he had an eye on the mayor's office when he decided to run for City Council.
"I had in mind that I wanted to get in under the hood of city government and make sure I had the knowledge that I needed," he said.
Like Flaherty, who served for 12 years on the council, Cahill has rarely disagreed with Scanlon while serving as council president. The three candidates have all mentioned education, the need for a new middle school and police station, and improvements to the downtown and waterfront as major issues facing the city.
Instead, Cahill chooses to emphasize the difference in style between him and Scanlon.
"How will I be different from Bill? We will govern ourselves," Cahill said. "We are a democracy. If they elect me mayor, people will be empowered to run our own city. There's one style where everything goes through one person, one point. With the style I will bring, we'll throw the doors of City Hall wide open, shed a light on everything we do and invite people to the table."
Beacon Hill career
Cahill said he brought that style to bear in his 10 years as state representative. One of his major accomplishments was helping to change the law governing how people are involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities in Massachusetts, he said. Cahill worked on the bill while serving as House chairman of the Committee on Human Services & Elder Affairs.
Frank Laski, executive director of the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, an organization that advocated for the new law, credited Cahill and state Sen. Therese Murray with getting the legislation passed. Laski said the reforms, which offer more legal protections for people with mental illness, have proven to be effective.
"My recollection of him at that time is that he took some leadership on that and moved that through," Laski said. "It took some doing. I give him credit for that."
Cahill said he also secured state funding for the former McDonald's restaurant on the waterfront, the renovation of the elementary schools and the purchase of open space, and helped make the former United Shoe property eligible for tax breaks that led to its development as the Cummings Center.
After five two-year terms at the Statehouse, Cahill decided not to run for re-election and instead mounted a campaign for state treasurer in 2002. He finished last in a four-way race in the Democratic primary and ended up more than $80,000 in debt, most of it his own money that he had loaned to the campaign.
In campaign finance reports filed this week, Cahill still lists $75,825 in liabilities from that campaign.
"It's money owed to me, and I may never see any of that," he said. "It's akin to making an investment in yourself if you're starting a business. People make investments in themselves sometimes that they're not able to recoup."
Lobbying for the Y
For the last seven years, Cahill, who is a lawyer, has served as executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, an organization that represents all of the YMCAs in the state. Cahill said he oversees state YMCA programs involving diabetes prevention, child protection, healthy communities and at-risk youths and lobbies on Beacon Hill regarding public policy issues of concern to the YMCAs.
Len Mercier, executive director of the Danvers Community YMCA, said Cahill's rapport with state legislators gives the YMCA a voice on Beacon Hill.
"In these times of real financial crunch, when we're looking for our funding for our child care programs, you have to have decent representation," Mercier said. "It's all about making sure that you're heard. Mike has done an awesome job at representing us and making sure that we have some say."
Cahill said he oversees a staff of two as well as two groups of consultants. He made $114,029 in 2009, the latest year for which the organization's tax filings are available. He would make $100,000 as mayor.
Although Cahill said he enjoyed working on statewide issues on Beacon Hill and once harbored hopes of winning statewide office, he is just as happy dealing with the kind of city and neighborhood issues that come with being mayor.
"If I people will have me, I'd like to do this job for eight to 10 years," he said. "I'd like to do it long enough to reach the potential we all see Beverly having."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment: Executive director of Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Middlebury College; law degree from Suffolk University Law School
Elected office: Beverly state representative, 1993-2002; Beverly City Council president, 2010-present