By Bill Cantwell
---- — HAVERHILL — Today voters will pick their next leaders as Haverhill faces key issues — and there promises to be plenty of color as the balloting unfolds.
There will also be at least one new leader elected — a city councilor for one open spot — and possibly more changes to the face of Haverhill government.
Among the eye-catching highlights will be mayoral challenger Tyler Kimball, a local farm owner, riding to his neighborhood poll aboard a horse-drawn buggy to cast his ballot.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for voters to choose:
Their mayor for the next two years. Incumbent James Fiorentini faces a write-in/sticker challenge from Kimball, who is also a city firefighter. Fiorentini is trying to earn his sixth consecutive term as mayor, a record among Haverhill mayors. Yesterday, Kimball said he planned to take a horse-and-buggy trip to his neighborhood poll late this morning. He also said he will give voters rides to the polls in antique cars.
Nine city councilors, also for two years, including at least one new face to replace 10-year Councilor Michael Hart. He is the only incumbent not seeking reelection. Challengers include two former councilors, two local lawyers, a high school teacher, a school custodian and the owner of a popular downtown sandwich shop. The race has 15 candidates for nine available seats.
Three School Committee members for the next four years. The winners will help lead Haverhill through a series of challenging educational issues, including building a new school in Bradford. Three incumbents face two challengers with extensive educational backgrounds. The committee has six members serving four-year terms, but the seats are staggered so that three come up for election every two years.
Observers, including Hart, said it will not be surprising if voters make several changes to the council or School Committee. He said the field of candidates, particularly in the council race, is not large, but contains quality people running strong races.
Because there were too few candidates to force a preliminary election in September, the candidates do not have a way to measure their popularity among voters as they could through past preliminary elections, Hart said. Such early elections allow candidates to adjust their campaign strategies as they work toward the final election, he said.
In the council race, incumbents seeking re-election are: John Michitson, Robert Scatamacchia, William Ryan, Michael McGonagle, William Macek, Colin LePage, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Thomas Sullivan. Sullivan actually finished just out of the top nine in 2011, but was chosen by the council to finish the term of then-councilor Sven Arminian, who resigned to become director of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.
The challengers are: Former councilors David Hall, a retired Haverhill police sergeant, and Kenneth Quimby; Fred Simmons, a Haverhill school custodian and head of his workers union who has run unsuccessfully in the past; E. Phillip Brown, a Haverhill High School teacher; Lynne Saben, a local attorney; Timothy Connors, also a local attorney; and Melinda Barrett, owner of a food shop on Merrimack Street.
In the School Committee race, incumbents Joseph Bevilacqua, Paul Magliochetti and Raymond Sierpina are seeking re-election.
Bevilacqua, head of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, is seeking a fourth term in office and has been a School Committee member for 12 years. Sierpina, former long-time principal of Tilton Elementary School in Haverhill, is in his first term on the committee, which he joined in January 2010. Magliocchetti, a local lawyer who has been an active school parent for years, is also in his first term and has been on the committee since January 2010. He is the committee’s president. He made an unsuccessful run last year as an Independent candidate for the 1st Essex Senate District.
Committee challengers are Maura Ryan-Ciardiello and Gail Sullivan. Ryan-Ciardiello is a teacher by training and currently stays at home with her children. She ran unsuccessfully for the Governor’s Council last year and is the daughter of longtime City Councilor William Ryan. Sullivan is a teacher at Northern Essex Community College and the University of New England. She has also been a high school principal, curriculum specialist, assistant superintendent and superintendent.