METHUEN — Veteran at-large City Councilor Jennifer Aziz Kannan was suitably dressed for a St. Patrick’s Day meal and political roasting, sporting a green sweater with her fingernails painted green.
But after she and many other politicos and Methuen officials got speared by Council Chairman Sean J. Fountain — the event’s emcee who was dishing out some biting comments, though in fun — Kannan got serious for about three minutes, declaring candidacy for mayor against incumbent Stephen Zanni in this fall’s city elections.
Kannan, 48, a realtor and mother of three children who is in her sixth year on the council, stood in front of the podium of Gaythorne Hall at the Methuen Knights of Columbus last night to make her announcement, joined by her family and several supporters.
“The heart of Methuen is in all of you,” Kannan told a packed crowd of close to 400 people, many of them supporters and friends.
“A city is its people. Methuen has a great legacy of dedicated, loving, and tenacious citizens who stick together for the greater good, which is Methuen,” she said.
Kannan read a stanza of a poem called “Hope,” by Emily Dickinson. Then she rattled off her hopes for the city, which include increased public safety, improving historical sites, keeping schools safe, continuing educational opportunities for students and keeping parks and fields pristine.
“I have many positive goals in mind that will make our community stronger, safer and more beautiful than she already is,” Kannan said. “My years of serving as your councilor have introduced me to new and important challenges that face the city. I am a proactive councilor and have always maintained constant contact with the residents of our community.”
Several former area mayors — William Manzi and Sharon Pollard of Methuen and Mary Claire Kennedy of Lawrence — were among the notable politicos who assembled for Kannan’s announcement. Former state Sen. Steven Baddour was also there, with many police officers, firefighters and other city workers.
“She is genuinely devoted to her city and the residents,” Council Chairman Fountain said of his colleague. “She definitely has intensity and compassion.”
However, during the roast Fountain also poked fun at Kannan and other public officials in the room.
On Kannan: “She’s always smiling until she gets mad and you have to debate her.”
On Mayor Zanni: “I heard Steve Zanni was coming today, but I haven’t seen him. Somebody said he got lost on the way here.”
On former Mayor Manzi: “I haven’t seen a beating like that since Rodney King,” referring to last year’s election defeat in his bid for state Senate.
On the late Ronnie Ford: “A true Methuen icon. We know he’s definitely with us. We heard his old friend (City Councilor) Mike Condon inherited all his dress pants.”
City Councilor Lisa J. Yarid-Ferry and former City Councilor Deborah Quinn were among those who took the podium to support Kannan’s mayoral candidacy and also share some jokes in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.
People attending last night’s gathering were treated to an Irish meal, seated at tables anchored by a string of green and white balloons hovering over a tray of green and white cupcakes. There were green raffle tickets too.