, Salem, MA

August 21, 2013

Our view: A missed opportunity for Beverly candidates

The Salem News

---- — Maybe it’s because we’re still working our way through the dog days of summer, but the Beverly mayor’s race is off to a mild start. Here’s hoping voters aren’t poorer for it come fall, when they will be choosing which candidate can best lead the city into a new era.

We find it surprising that the two top candidates to replace longtime Mayor William Scanlon — Mike Cahill, a former city councilor and state representative, and Wes Slate, the city’s current Ward 2 councilor — have little to no interest in selecting the city’s next chief of police.

Chief Mark Ray, who has led the department since 2007, announced earlier this month that he will retire Sept. 13. Scanlon, who will retire in January, said he will choose the new chief, even though his pick will be reporting to his successor.

And that’s fine with Slate and Cahill.

“I’m certainly comfortable with the mayor’s ability to make decisions,” Slate told reporter Paul Leighton last week. I’ve supported him in the past, and I support him now.”

Cahill said, “I have confidence in Mayor Scanlon’s ability to identify and nominate a strong candidate. If, in fact, come Nov. 5, voters decide I’ll be the next mayor, I’ll look to have some more conversation with him (about the next police chief).”

Yes, the choice is technically Scanlon’s to make, and it’s good news that he plans to consider candidates from inside and outside the department (including the soon-to-be interim chief, Capt. Christopher Negrotti).

However, it will be the new mayor and the rest of the city living with the decision. Given the turbulence in the department in years past, the selection of a new chief is not to be taken lightly, and should be an election issue. The candidates should be telling voters what they find important in a police chief, and by extension, in a police department. (If the circumstances were reversed, it would be difficult to see an incoming Mayor Scanlon ceding the choice to his predecessor.)

In this instance, we agree with the third candidate in the race, Euplio Marciano, who told Leighton, “Since he’ll be working with the new chief, the new mayor should have the choice.”

And, we would add, the responsibility.