By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — City Councilor-at-large Michael Condon had collected all the voter signatures he needed to get his name on the November ballot, but still hadn’t returned his nomination papers to the City Clerk’s office.
With the deadline to return papers looming, Condon’s wife Lee-Ann suspected something was up. So she pressed the issue one recent morning over a cup of coffee and told her husband, “You’re not running.”
“I looked at her and said, ‘You’re right. I’m not running,” said Condon, 58, owner of The Sweetheart Inn on Myrtle Street. “She could see that I didn’t have the fire in my belly.”
Condon said he will retire from Methuen politics when his council term ends in December. He will be joined by School Committeeman Evan Chaisson, 30, who intended to run for West District council this fall but will be forced to take a hiatus from the local political scene due to a work schedule conflict. Chaisson say’s he’ll be back in time for the 2015 election.
“I’m still going to fight for what I believe in,” said Chaisson.
The departure of Condon and Chaisson from the council race opens up the field for other candidates. In all, 14 residents are vying for nine seats. Councilors serve two-year terms and are limited to three consecutive terms under the city charter.
With Condon no seeking reelection, the race for three councilor-at-large seats will be decided among five candidates: incumbent Joyce Campagnone and challengers Sharon Birchall, Daniel Grayton, James Jajuga and Robert LeBlanc.
There are two council seats apiece in the city’s East, West and Central districts. Each race will feature three candidates. In the West District, incumbent Sean Fountain will run for reelection along with challengers George Kazanjian and Ken Willette Jr. Last week, Chaisson was quick to endorse both Fountain and Willette.
Chaisson said he and Willette share philosophies on keeping taxes low and protecting services for youth and the elderly. Chaisson said Fountain brings the same high-energy approach that he brought to the School Committee for six years.
“He has a great vision for Methuen and its future,” said Chaisson.
A 2001 Methuen High School graduate, Chaisson was elected to the School Committee in 2008 at age 24. He served three consecutive terms and will be forced to leave office at the end of 2013 due to term limits.
A former circulation department employee at The Salem News, a sister paper of The Eagle-Tribune, Chaisson now works as a signal engineer for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, which runs the commuter rail for the MBTA.
Chaisson said he was all set to return his nomination papers late last month. But that all changed when his bosses informed him that he’ll likely be switching to second or third shift at start of the new year.
“After they told me that, I thought it would be unfair if I ran and won a seat and had to step down,” said Chaisson. “It wasn’t a smart move politically and it wasn’t a smart move for the city.”
Chaisson said he will run again in 2015, though he is not sure for which local office.
For Condon, the end of 2013 will mark the end of a political career that began by serving on the Essex County Charter Commission, which was charged with reforming county government.
From there, Condon went on to serve as a West District city councilor, Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee member, and then a three-term councilor-at-large during the administration of former Mayor Sharron Pollard.
Condon then took a six-year hiatus during Mayor William Manzi’s tenure before being reelected to the council in 2011.
Condon said 2013 has been a difficult year for him personally. His father Edward, 79, and his best friend, Arthur Hutton, 58, both passed away. After leaving office, Condon said he will take more time to concentrate on his business and family.
“It was very hard for me to make this decision, because I love what I do,” said Condon. “It’s kind of a full-time job. There’s a lot of work entailed. ... I’m going to miss it, because I like the action.”
The municipal election is Nov. 5. In the Central District, incumbents Jamie Atkinson and Lisa Ferry will run alongside challenger Jack Cronin. The East District candidates are incumbents Thomas Ciulla and Ron Marsan and challenger Thomas Firth. Term limits will force both Councilor-at-large Jennifer Kannan and West District Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo off the council. Kannan will challenge Mayor Stephen Zanni’s reelection campaign.