SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 13, 2013

Benton: Municipal leaders share mutual respect, advice

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Beverly’s Bill Scanlon received well-deserved accolades from colleagues Tuesday as he made his final appearance at the annual roundtable of regional mayors (and Danvers’ town manager) sponsored by the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

In his almost 18 years at the helm of the Garden City, Scanlon has been a leader in the effort to shift the focus of municipal governance from its historic parochialism to an emphasis on mutual aid and cooperation.

The results can been seen most dramatically in the new regional vocational school now being built off Route 62 on the Danvers-Middleton line. But the impact, as freshman Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt pointed out, can be as subtle as the words of helpful advice he has received from his more experienced colleagues.

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Of particular interest during Wednesday’s discussion held before a packed crowd at the Danversport Yacht Club was the way the different mayors view their cities. (It was also one this columnist has the privilege of attending during a brief visit to the area.)

Scanlon noted how many in a Beverly, with its many distinct neighborhoods ranging from Gloucester Crossing to Prides Crossing, continue to view their community more as a town than a city. Predecessor Jack Monahan was fond of referring to it as “a bedroom community.”

In contrast, Salem’s Kim Driscoll insisted her community is “a city that thinks like a city,” and one that is proud of its vibrancy.

Gloucester’s Carolyn Kirk, on the other hand, noted that she was happy to hear from a constituent the other day that her greatest dilemma is “‘What time should we go to the beach, and which restaurant should we go to afterward?’”

All three seem quite content with their lot as compared to Judith Flanagan Kennedy who acknowledged her greatest challenge upon taking office almost four years ago was to “change the mental image that all of you have of the city of Lynn.”

She hopes hiring 30 more cops and firefighters have made things better. She’ll find out if she’s made believers of those living in Lynn this fall.

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Also receiving a shout-out Wednesday was former Salem Mayor Neil Harrington, now town manager in Salisbury, who was cited by Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday for his work on a new walking path and other mitigation projects associated with the reconstruction of the Whittier Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Merrimack River.

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The assembled municipal executives were under tight time constraints having been instructed to limit their remarks to five minutes apiece. The pressure at these events is nothing, however, compared to that of telling a joke or two at one of the various St. Patrick’s Day events held each spring.

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Look for Mike Cahill and Wes Slate to be the two candidates left standing after the Sept. 24 mayoral primary in Beverly.

Cahill came close to knocking off Scanlon two years ago. But Slate, the current Ward 2 councilor, claims the incumbent’s support along with that of other influential citizens like veteran Ward 1 Councilor Maureen Troubetaris and Democratic State Committeeman Arthur Powell.

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Everyone seems to be running away from the tax on technology these days. Here on the North Shore, the regional chamber is spearheading the repeal effort. Petitions to get the matter on the ballot will be available at the business organization’s office in Cherry Hill Park beginning this Friday.

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Based on the turnout at Tuesday night’s forum for Salem School Committee candidates, there’s plenty of interest in the upcoming election. Let’s hope the turnout in the election reflects it.