PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt is seeking a sixth term in office.
Bettencourt, in an announcement, cited a lengthy list of accomplishments during the past year of the pandemic, but said there is still more work to do, and he wants to do it.
“I am really proud of what we have been able to accomplish despite the tragedy and hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Our community has been through so much during the past year, but we persevered, and together we look forward to much brighter days ahead.”
He touched on his administration's pandemic response, from relaying the latest public health data, status of municipal operations and COVID-19 restrictions to residents, to finding innovative ways to continue inspecting buildings, issuing permits and moving forward on water infrastructure upgrades and other important projects.
Bettencourt also pointed to more than $380,000 in pandemic relief grants that the city's Community Development Authority issued to 110 Peabody small businesses to help with cash flow and payroll expenses. Many local, family-run shops and restaurants were left reeling from shutdowns and upheaval in the early days of the pandemic.
Last June, the City Council also approved the mayor's outdoor dining plan, which enabled 18 restaurants to expand their seating capacity, increase revenues, and hire back workers. The council later approved an extension of outdoor dining through the end of 2021.
And then there were the city's schools. Few areas of life were more affected by the pandemic than education, Bettencourt said.
Peabody, like many communities in the state, began the new school year with a hybrid learning model for grades K-12 that was hashed out between school officials, principals and teachers, keeping in line with state guidelines. Families could choose between fully remote learning or a mix of remote and in-person instruction.
As vaccinations increased and public health data improved this spring, Peabody was among the first cities in Massachusetts to return all grades to full time in-person learning, ahead of the state's deadlines, Bettencourt said.
Using the same metrics, Bettencourt reopened City Hall on April 7 and the Main Branch Library on April 20.
“Similar to schools, the reopening of City Hall and the library are significant milestones on our road back to normal life,” he said. “We continue to prioritize public health and safety...”
Bettencourt also noted the city finally prevailed in its long-running legal battle with Verizon Wireless over a cell tower in South Peabody. In October, Verizon finally reached an agreement with the light plant to install wireless equipment on existing utility poles in the city.
Looking to the horizon, he points to the sale and anticipated transformation of the O'Shea Mansion into a downtown destination spot, a number of major infrastructure upgrades to get underway, and strong fiscal management to keep Peabody affordable with good services for residents.
The mayor also said RCN is nearing completion of its residential service buildout in Peabody. The city signed a franchise license in 2019 for RCN to offer cable TV and high-speed internet in the city — previously, Comcast was the only service available.
“When I first ran for mayor and during my first few terms in office, I received hundreds of calls from residents who were fed up with the cable TV monopoly in Peabody,” he said. “The agreement with RCN put an end to the monopoly once and for all and has brought much needed competition.”
On infrastructure, he pointed to the Central Street corridor reconstruction, major extensions to the city's bike trail and finally building that bridge over Route 1, continuing designs for the long-awaited Riverwalk along the North River Canal, trying to secure $500,000 in state grants to test out a Peabody-to-Salem trolley, and working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on school improvements projects with an eye toward eventually building a new high school.
“It has been a very difficult year for all of us, but Peabody is a very strong community made up of very resilient people," he said. "I believe our best days are yet to come.”
Bettencourt, 48, an attorney by profession, was first elected mayor in 2011, previously serving eight years as a city councilor. He and his wife Andrea have four children.
On Wednesday, the City Clerk's office said no one else has pulled papers to challenge Bettencourt. He pulled papers on April 28.