When compared to other local communities, Beverly’s 2019 election season has been relatively calm. The only contested races are for City Council in wards 3 and 5, and School Committee in Ward 4. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important citywide choices facing the city’s voters on the Nov. 5 ballot.
That is primarily because the top vote-getter in the at-large council race becomes that panel’s president. The president runs City Council meetings, decides questions of order and makes subcommittee assignments. The president also becomes acting mayor if the mayor is unable to perform the duties of the office, and would take over if the mayor dies, resigns or is removed from office in the last nine months of a term.
There is no official race for at-large councilor this year, with the three incumbents — Tim Flaherty, Julie Flowers and Council President Paul Guanci — running for the three open seats. That has led some residents to push the idea of “bullet voting” — casting a ballot for only one at-large candidate in the hopes that he or she becomes the top vote-getter, and thus assumes the council presidency.
It is a difficult tactic to recommend in Beverly, where all three candidates are deserving of reelection, and where the City Council has proven to be an effective, collegial example to its counterparts across the North Shore. Still, one of the three will end up as the top vote-getter — something for residents of wards 1, 2 and 6 to consider when they are deciding whether to cast a ballot Tuesday.
Those in the contested wards have choices to make. In Ward 3, where incumbent Bill Latter is stepping down, Kris Silverstein’s long, steady experience on the School Committee, tireless community work and understanding of the challenges facing Ward 3 and the city at large give her the edge.
Meanwhile, first-time candidate Kathleen Feldman, operations manager at the Wenham Museum, offers an energetic new perspective in Ward 5, promising to focus on issues ranging from pedestrian safety — many children live within a half-mile of their school yet cannot safely bike or walk there, she notes — to the effects of climate change. Hers would be a welcome new voice on the council.
John Mullady, the incumbent in the Ward 4 School Committee race, has been an engaged member of that panel and a strong advocate for the city’s schoolchildren. Mullady has named as priorities are closing the achievement gap among student demographic groups and addressing the social-emotional needs of students. He has earned another term.