By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — For more than a decade, Melinda Barrett has run a successful downtown business.
Now, she’s a successful first-time politician.
Voters chose Barrett yesterday as their new city councilor. She replaces 10-year Councilor Michael Hart, who did not seek re-election.
Barrett, 50, was the only one of seven challengers to win a two-year seat on the council. Voters returned all eight incumbents seeking re-election to the council.
Barrett could not be reached after the results were announced last night, but she said in a prior interview that she is looking forward to working with residents and merchants to create new opportunities for the city.
“As a lifelong resident, with a family legacy in Haverhill business for 96 years, I am aware of the struggles that the city has endured,” she said.
Barrett’s family has been in Haverhill for generations. It owned the popular downtown Barrett’s men’s clothing store for decades. The now-closed store is the location of her successful deli on Merrimack Street.
Barrett said she will be the fresh voice the council needs.
“I praise the council for its efforts on business development, and I will continue to be aggressive in this area,” she said. “The council should’ve been more vigilant in the redesign of Bradford Square. Maintenance plans for public properties have been lacking.”
Barrett finished a strong third in the council race to top vote-getter John Michitson and current council President Robert Scatamacchia.
By virtue of his first-place finish, Michitson would be in line to be council president — a position he held in the prior term until he gave it up for job-related reasons. Last night, Michitson said he would prefer to be vice president and let Scatamacchia continue to be president. Scatamacchia finished third in yesterday’s council race with 5,207 votes, just five fewer than Michitson.
“I am humbled and honored the voters have made me the top vote-getter for the third time,” said Michitson, an engineer who ran unsuccessfully for mayor four years ago. “It shows that the people recognize and appreciate that I try to get all the facts and make thoughtful decisions.”
As it has been in recent years, Michitson said economic development and bringing jobs to Haverhill will continue to be among his top priorities.
“My new priority is going to be public safety and increasing our police presence in the inner city, especially in the Mount Washington area,” Michitson said while watching the election results come in at City Hall last night.
The council race had 15 candidates for the nine available seats — the eight incumbents and seven challengers.
Two of the challengers — former councilors David Hall, a retired Haverhill police sergeant, and Kenneth Quimby Jr. — finished 10th and 11th in the race respectively. Hall was 210 votes out of ninth place and Quimby 50 votes behind Hall.