Michael Cahill was inaugurated for a fourth term as mayor of Beverly on Jan. 5, 2020. A little more than two months later, the city was in a state of emergency as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country. Any grand plans for the next two years went by the wayside as the city literally entered survival mode.
Any assessment of the mayor’s performance of the last two years has to take this into account. How did the city respond to the pandemic? And with an end hopefully in sight, how is the city positioned to move forward?
We grade Cahill highly on both counts, and offer our endorsement for a fifth two-year term.
Cahill and other city leaders consistently followed the science during the pandemic, relying on state and local health experts to lead the way, then supporting them in their efforts. It wasn’t easy, as much of the early information seemed contradictory — was this an airborne virus, or did it spread through contact? Do masks work or don’t they? Should we be washing our groceries or not? It was a time that required patient leadership, and Cahill provided it.
When testing sites were scarce early in the pandemic the city, pushed for and got one at Lynch Park. Understanding that COVID-19 doesn’t respect city lines, Cahill worked with leaders from other North Shore communities to coordinate a response. As the delta variant surged, the city reinstated a mask mandate for municipal buildings.
Not every initiative was set aside during COVID-19. The city teamed with other municipalities on “Resilient Together,” a regional effort to better coordinate the local response to climate change. Beverly took advantage of the drop in traffic in the early days of the pandemic to finish downtown road work. Earlier this year, the Beverly Police Department moved into its long-awaited new headquarters by the Cummings Center. And major affordable housing projects continue to move forward.
Cahill is opposed this year by Esther Ngotho, a longtime registered nurse with a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management and a doctorate in public health. It has been a friendly campaign — she credits Cahill with inspiring her to get more involved with the community — but Ngotho also pressed her case strongly for more attention to be paid to the city’s marginalized populations.
The City Council will look much different in 2022, with longtime Council President Paul Guanci and at-Large Councilor Tim Flaherty deciding not to run for re-election. Fortunately, there is a strong slate of candidates standing for office, including Julie Flowers, Hannah Bowen, Will Cosmas, Brendan Sweeney and Rich Tabbut, who are all running for three councilor-at-large spots.
At the top of the list is the incumbent Flowers, who is running for a third term. Flowers has been a thoughtful, forward-thinking and prepared presence in her four years on the council and has worked to make connections and build constituencies across the city. Her positive but not naive outlook will serve her, the council and the city well over the next two years.
Bowen, executive director of the North Shore Community Mediation Center, and Sweeney, who has served on the Planning Board and Cable TV Commission and works in state finance overseeing budgets and helping cities and towns deal with COVID-19 — both have good skills for a city councilor.
In Ward 2, incumbent Councilor Estelle Rand is being challenged by political newcomer Kim Peckam. We feel Rand’s combination of experience and responsiveness serve her constituents well. Her voice — and theirs — will be vitally important as the city considers the redevelopment of the Bass River corridor.
In Ward 3, we like Steven Crowley to replace Stacey Ames, who is not running for re-election. Crowley, who ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2007, is a retired Air Force veteran and longtime member of the Beverly Holiday Parade Committee.
When longtime Councilor John Frates stepped down after moving out of Ward 6, the rest of the council chose Dominic Copeland over seven other candidates to take his place. One of those other candidates, Matt St. Hilaire, is now opposing him as he runs for a full term. Copeland, however, has accomplished much in his short time in office, including getting funding for the Wentworth Tot Lot revitalization, seeing to the reinstatement of the Dix Park summer youth program, and addressing neighbors’ concerns about late-night activity at Pete’s Park. That is classic ward constituent work, and we feel it has earned Copeland a full two-year term when voters go to the polls Nov. 2.