Longtime Peabody councilor set to retire

Dave Gravel

PEABODY — At-Large City Councilor David Gravel, a fixture on the council for the past 11½ years and who has given two decades of volunteer service to the city, announced Thursday night he would be retiring from the council and not seek a seventh term this fall.

He is doing so with plenty of time for others to jump in the race, he said.

“For several months now I have been contemplating whether I would be announcing my candidacy for a 7th term on the City Council,” said Gravel in a written statement. “Many of you, including my family, friends and supporters have given me your patience and guidance on this matter. Many times I thought – why not, but somehow my instinct and actions were telling me a different story.”

Gravel, 62, said he first ran for office in 1981, a race he lost. In his 10 subsequent elections, he never hesitated to put his name in the hat.

“I simply pulled papers and went at it,” Gravel said.

This election season was different.

As the election season got underway this spring, Gravel’s name failed to appear on a list of potential candidates pulling nomination papers in the City Clerk’s office with July 30 being the last day for candidates to return them to get their names on the ballot for a possible preliminary election and the biennial election this fall.

All five at-large councilor seats are up for grabs. Six people have signaled intentions to run for additional two-year terms, including incumbents Ryan Melville, Thomas Rossignoll, Tom Gould and Anne Manning-Martin. School Committee member Jarrod Hochman has pulled papers to run at-large, and so has resident Tony Vidinha.

“This week, reflecting on that fact, I knew the answer was right in front of me. As a result, tonight I would like to inform my colleagues on the council, the mayor, and the public, that I will not seek re-election to the Peabody City Council,” Gravel said.

Gravel has served on the City Council since January 2008. He also served on the School Committee for two terms from January 1996 to January 2004. He loved his time in elected office and had no regrets, but that it was time to turn the page so he could spend more time with his wife and growing family while growing his family technology business, which is celebrating 25 years this year, and which employs 50 people.

Gravel is president and CEO of GraVoc Associates, Inc., a Peabody technology consulting company.

“In this new chapter, I also plan to continue and intensify my involvement with the Peabody Education Foundation to help our schools meet the needs of our students, Peabody Main Streets to help us revitalize our downtown, the YMCA as it continues to grow and service our families, and Santa’s Magic to bring joy and comfort to our veterans at Christmas,” Gravel said.

Gravel said he recently accepted a position on the board of Merrimack Valley Elder Services, which has merged with North Shore Elder Services. He has also accepted a position of vice chairman on the North Shore Workforce Investment Board with the goal of making technology curriculum more relevant.

He still has six months to serve on the council.

Gravel’s roots run deep in Peabody. He’s a 1974 graduate of Peabody Veterans Memorial High, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English and education from Salem State, which he earned in 1978. He earned an MBA in finance and information systems from Babson College in 1984. He works with his wife, Catherine, with whom he co-founded GraVoc in 1994. He has four grown children, two sons, two daughters and several grandchildren.

In April 2013, Gravel, while serving as a city councilor, ran unsuccessfully for state representative in a special election to fill a vacancy for the 12th Essex District after the death of state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis, who died in office at the end of November 2012.

Gravel ran as an unenrolled candidate and came in third behind School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne, a Democrat, and the eventual winner Leah Cole, a Republican. Cole went on to win another term in a race against Dunne in 2014. Cole resigned in 2015 and in a special election, Tom Walsh, then a city councilor, won a special election to succeed her.

Gravel started out wanting to teach, but after temporary job at the Higgins School, he took a job at the state Department of Education, according to a profile in The Salem News in 2013. He then went to work for a company pioneering in technology that rented computers. When the company was sold to General Electric, Gravel was a vice president of finance and chief financial officer.

The Gravels established the family-owned GraVoc in Peabody Square. It has since moved to 10 Centennial Drive.

Gravel thanked his wife, family and supporters and said he will give it his all until the last minute of his last meeting.

“It is an honor to serve, and I only hope that I have and will continue to live up to your expectations,” Gravel said.

In a side note, retiring Fire Chief Steve Pasdon received a standing ovation from the council when he announced that Thursday night would be his last appearance before the council after 18 years as chief and 30 years as a Peabody firefighter.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.