BEVERLY — When an arsonist was setting fire to barns and alarming the Centerville neighborhood in the late 1960s, Mike Cahill remembers his father heading out in the middle of the night to stand watch with other volunteers.
For Cahill and his five brothers, the sight of either one of their parents rallying to a community cause was hardly surprising.
Bill Cahill, a lawyer, was president of his church’s parish council, chairman of the Beverly Republican City Committee, a founder of the Centerville Improvement Society and a six-year member of the Board of Aldermen. Jeanne Cahill was a Cub Scout den mother, a Sunday school teacher and a longtime teacher in the Beverly public schools.
When her husband died of leukemia at age 44, she raised six boys by herself, while also battling breast cancer.
“Our parents really taught us to be involved and engaged in the community because that’s who they were,” Mike Cahill said. “It was never by word. It was by deed. If you want good things for your community, you have to be pitching in.”
Cahill said the example set by his late parents is one of the reasons he is making his second attempt to become mayor. After losing narrowly to Bill Scanlon two years ago, he is widely considered the favorite to ascend to the office he has long contemplated.
Cahill won last month’s preliminary election by more than 1,000 votes over Ward 2 City Councilor Wes Slate. The two are squaring off in the Nov. 5 final election for the right to succeed Scanlon, who is not running for re-election after a record 18 years in office.
Cahill, a 51-year-old lawyer who works as executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, has a long history of winning citywide elections. He won five times as the city’s Democratic state representative from 1993 to 2002. After a nearly decade-long absence from city politics, he returned to the ballot in 2009 and was the leading vote-getter in the City Council race, earning the role of council president.