BEVERLY — One of the candidates for Ward 6 city councilor has withdrawn his name from consideration and thrown his support behind the only Black candidate in the race, saying the city needs "more voices of color."
In an email to city councilors on Monday night, John Tamilio said he is backing Dominic Copeland for the position.
"It's time for the City Council to reflect the interests and needs of ALL of our residents," Tamilio wrote.
Copeland is one of nine candidates looking to replace John Frates, who will step down as the Ward 6 councilor at the end of the month because he is moving to another ward in the city. Since Frates has one year left on his two-year term, the City Council is charged with picking his replacement. It is planning to vote on Dec. 21.
The eight councilors (Frates will not vote for his successor) face the unique circumstance of selecting a councilor at a time when Beverly, like other communities around the country, is dealing with issues of racial injustice and inequality.
Maureen Troubetaris, who served on the council for 22 years — the most in the city's history — before stepping down in 2014, said the Beverly City Council has never had a person of color as far as she can remember. The city's population is just 2% Black, according to 2018 U.S. Census data.
In his email to councilors, Tamilio said he is not supporting Copeland "because of the color of his skin, but, to use the words of one of my heroes, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I support Mr. Copeland primarily because of the content of his character."
"He is an intelligent, dedicated man who loves this community and wants to see it be the city on a hill that shines as an example for other towns and cities in the North Shore and beyond to emulate," Tamilio wrote.
Copeland said in an interview that he was "surprised and conflicted" by Tamilio's decision, "because I don't want anybody to feel like they needed to step down because I was in the race."
Copeland compared it to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's decision to step down from the company's board of directors and urge the company to replace him with a person of color.
"He said unless he did, the person who was qualified would never get the opportunity," Copeland said. "It gave me insight into what John was doing. He was saying, 'Here is someone who is qualified and that could balance out the City Council. That person may not get the opportunity unless I do something like this and open the door of access.'"
Copeland, 44, has worked in education and business development sales and recently started his own company, The Copeland Institute for Excellence, which offers programs in motivation, leadership and education "along the lines of Tony Robbins," he said.
"I describe myself as a strategist," Copeland said. "I'm able to find the strategy and techniques that we leverage in order to accomplish the things that you want."
Copeland grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he said his family battled racism. He said Reading is still the home of a Ku Klux Klan leader.
"My mother and my family stood up for social justice and what we thought was right," he said. "That gave me a strong foundation for standing up for what's right even against the odds."
Copeland and his family, which includes his wife and four sons, moved to Beverly 12 years ago. He has been involved in the community through coaching youth football and basketball and helping out families in need, he said.
Copeland said it's "crucial" for Beverly to have a person of color on the City Council to reflect the increasing diversity of the city. He said he has spoken to other people of color in Beverly who feel like they are not being represented.
"Many of them feel like they just don't have a voice and nobody's listening and nobody cares," he said. "I know personally that's not Beverly, but that's what people are seeing."
The City Council listened to presentations from the nine Ward 6 candidates on Monday night. In addition to Copeland, the candidates are Derek Beckwith, James Carnazza, Ralph Coluntino, Paul Lanzikos, Medley Long, Dane Poeske, Kent Sinclair and Matt St. Hilaire.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.