METHUEN — Just nine months since he took office, Mayor Stephen Zanni announced yesterday he plans to run for a second term next year, the first candidate to do so.
Some local political watchers speculated he may have thrown his hat in the ring early to head off some Democratic challengers. And several of the city’s political class were noncommittal on whether they would run against the incumbent for a two-year term.
“I will be running for a second term, and I’ll be looking for your support to move our city forward,” Zanni told a crowd of about 100 yesterday at a Columbus Day roast at the Merrimack Valley Golf Club that included many prominent city leaders and political figures.
Zanni, 68, trumpeted his accomplishments so far in his term, including getting all the municipal contracts settled, encouraging Century Box to expand in Methuen with a tax incentive, and making sure the high school renovation and expansion project stayed on time and on budget.
William Manzi, Zanni’s predecessor as mayor, said after the roast that he was not considering another run for mayor. He could not run last year because the city’s charter limits mayors to three consecutive two-year terms. However, the charter would permit him to run next year because he sat out a term.
Manzi said he would announce an endorsement “at an appropriate time.”
Businessman Al DiNuccio, who ran against Zanni last year, said it is too early for a decision on whether he would run again.
“I said after the last election that I would give this mayor a full year before saying anything,” DiNuccio said yesterday before the roast. “I want Steve to do well. I don’t want to have to run against him. I don’t dislike anyone. I just disagree with politics, that’s all.”
He said he would rate Zanni’s performance so far as “a B, like how they rate the Patriots. It’s a passing grade. Nobody gets an A. There’s always room for improvement.”
Attorney Robert LeBlanc, a DiNuccio supporter who said he is dissatisfied with both the mayor and the City Council, is undecided about a run, but is “considering it.”
“The bottom line is if there’s a difference I can make for the citizens and not the political players, I’d probably be in,” he said. “But I’m a long way from making a final decision.”
Since taking office in January, Zanni negotiated with a new contractor for the high school project when cost estimates started to balloon. “That’s on time and it’s on budget,” he said. The council approved Consigli Construction Co. as the new contractor in April after throwing out its contract with Dimeo Construction.
He also immediately pushed for privatization of the city’s information technology department. An outside contractor, RetroFit Technologies, Inc., evaluated the department and made a recommendation to the City Council that the service be provided by an outside company. But when Zanni immediately proposed hiring RetroFit to do the work, the council refused to go along, insisting the job be put out to bid. A vote on the three finalists, including RetroFit, is expected this fall.
Zanni also negotiated and presented eight municipal contracts, all but one of which has been approved. The last one, for the police patrolmen, must win a second vote, but passed with ease on its first vote. He and School Department negotiators are still in talks with the Methuen Education Association for a new contract with the teachers.
Along with the IT issue, Zanni ran into a little trouble when, in spontaneous remarks at a City Council meeting, he said Methuen should be compared to North Andover and Andover instead of Haverhill and Lawrence. Haverhill Mayor Jame Fiorintini took exception to the comment in a letter to Zanni’s office several days later.
Zanni narrowly won election last November over DiNuccio, a result that was confirmed by a recount. By the end, Zanni won by 34 votes out of about 8,900 cast.
The mayor had served three consecutive two-year term as a city councilor-at-large. The retired teacher and school administrator was sworn in as former Manzi’s successor in January. Manzi threw his had in the ring for an unsuccessful bid at state Senate last spring after considering a run for Register of Deeds.
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