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In this January 2020 photo, Mayor Kim Driscoll gives the State of the City address during Salem’s annual inaugural ceremony. Driscoll will deliver her final State of the City speech on Jan. 4 before resigning from office to become the next Massachusetts lieutenant governor.

SALEM — The first City Council meeting of the year is, no doubt, one of the most momentous for 2023.

On Wednesday, Salem’s City Council will receive its last address from Mayor Kim Driscoll, oversee a transfer of power to a new acting mayor, and set the stage to elect a successor by May who will finish out the last three years of Driscoll’s term.

The council’s annual reorganizational meeting will be in-person on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 93 Washington St. The meeting will also be on Zoom, at Webinar ID “862 9390 9663,” password 285221. Driscoll, who will no longer be mayor at the meeting’s close, will be sworn in as lieutenant governor at a ceremony Thursday afternoon.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the council will elect a new president, set the rules for the coming year, and lock in committee assignments, according to City Clerk Ilene Simons. The mayor typically makes his or her annual State of the City address as well, delivered for the last 16 years by Driscoll.

She’ll deliver her final remarks Wednesday, after which her resignation as mayor will take effect and the City Council will need to fill the vacancy until a winner emerges from the special election.

The meeting agenda first calls for the council to adopt an election calendar. The first date that matters to residents — nomination papers becoming available for interested candidates — isn’t yet set and depends on the state’s expected approval of changes to Salem election rules. The City Council submitted those by home-rule petition in the fall.

While it isn’t yet known when papers will be available, they’ll be due by Tuesday, Feb. 7, a copy of the calendar shows. With one seat available, more than two candidates making the ballot would force a preliminary election to narrow the field to two. The calendar sets the preliminary for Tuesday, March 28, with the final special election to be held Tuesday, May 16.

Several residents have already announced they plan to run or are seriously considering it.

After the calendar is voted upon, “then we’ll vote on an acting mayor,” Simons said, “and then I’ll swear in the acting mayor.”

The agenda calls for that acting mayor to then give a speech before the council adjourns.

The last time the City Council was tasked with appointing an acting mayor, it was to fill a vacancy left by the judicial appointment of then-Mayor Sam Zoll in 1973. It took 87 ballots and two days for the council to pick a new leader, ending with a 6-5 appointment of then-Council President Jean Levesque.

Should the City Council need a second night to select an acting mayor, it’s expected it would go into the following week given state requirements for scheduling meetings, according to Simons.

There was no special election to follow Levesque’s appointment, because the vacancy took place within the final year of Zoll’s term. In 1973, acting Mayor Levesque went on to run for and win his first of eventually five consecutive two-year terms as mayor. The Community Life Center on Bridge Street is named after him today.

With just a couple days shy of three years left in Driscoll’s fifth term, the May 16 special election will pick a new mayor to finish out that term, leading into the next full mayoral term that would start Monday, Jan. 5, 2026, as Salem kicks off its 400th anniversary celebrations.

Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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