LAWRENCE – The City Council last night approved Mayor Daniel Rivera’s choice for planning director in a 7-2 vote that followed two weeks of lobbying by the new mayor in an effort to rescue his nominee from what was shaping up to be a narrow defeat.
The lopsided vote was an early victory for Rivera on a council led by an increasingly assertive president, who already has challenged the mayor on several other issues, including his decision to rehire a public works supervisor fired by former Mayor William Lantigua.
Rivera easily won last night’s showdown with Council President Modesto Maldonado by winning over Councilor Sandy Almonte, who voted against Park in the council’s Personnel Committee last week, and two or three other councilors who earlier expressed anger that Rivera put her on the payroll and gave her an added stipend before submitting her name to the council. When the vote came, only Councilor Oneida Aquino sided with Maldonado to oppose Park’s nomination.
Throughout the last few weeks, as Park’s nomination appeared to stumble, Rivera acknowledged that he should have sent Park’s nomination to the council earlier and tried to shift the debate to her qualifications.
Park has held planning and development jobs in Haverhill, Cambridge, Newton and Lowell. She resigned as Lowell’s economic development director after six years last month to take the planning job in Lawrence.
“I understand their concerns – I was there,” Rivera said after last night’s vote, referring to the four years he served on the council. “I didn’t mean to ruffle feathers, but we have to make sure we got a good candidate. They understood that. I said I wouldn’t do it again.”
Last night, Maldonado led a forceful and at times emotional charge against Park’s nomination, pounding his finger into his desk, raising his voice and suggesting that councilors who supported her would be violating the oath they took to uphold the city charter.