SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 13, 2013

Benton: Municipal leaders share mutual respect, advice

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.”

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