By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — Councilor-elect James Jajuga pulled his name from consideration for chairman of the City Council next year, leaving two candidates in a potentially close contest.
Jajuga, who was elected to his first term last month, said business at his consultancy has been picking up and he did not feel he could apply the time and attention to chairing the nine-member council. As of now, that leaves councilors Jamie Atkinson and Sean Fountain, who served this year as chairman, lining up votes.
“I’ve been very busy and getting busier and I don’t see a let up, so I can’t devote the time I need to the chairmanship,” Jajuga said yesterday.
Jajuga, who owns Jajuga Associates, had lobbied for support after the election last month, but said yesterday he sent an email to councilors bowing out of the race for chairman. He said he has decided whom to support, but declined to divulge the name.
Atkinson, who will start his second term when the council is inaugurated Jan. 4, said he has reached out to councilors asking for their votes for chairman, though he would not say on the record how many have committed their support.
“I would say I’ve gotten a good response,” he said.
Fountain did not return a phone message seeking comment yesterday.
Atkinson currently has four councilors – Ron Marsan Thomas Ciulla, Daniel Grayton and himself – who have publicly announced their support.
“The only person who has asked for my vote is Councilor Atkinson, and I said I would consider it,” Marsan said. “And I guess I will back him. No one else has asked for my vote.”
Grayton said he was looking for a change of tone from the last two years. “He’s going to be a strong leader. As chairman he’s going to promote respect, civility and debate. It’s something that’s been lacking over the last couple of years,” Grayton said.
Ciulla, who is looking at vice-chairman, also backed Atkinson. “He came to me first,” Ciulla said. “Jimmy dropped out of the race, but the kid has the time, and he wants to open up the search for city solicitor. He sold me on that. I definitely want a city solicitor. That’s probably the most important thing for me.”
Joyce Campagnone has also expressed interest in vice chairman. She did not return a message seeking comment.
“I’m doing very well. I think I’ll be very happy,” Ciulla said. “Hopefully my colleagues will put me in a leadership position.”
Jajuga is a former state senator, retired State Police lieutenant and former state secretary of public safety. He is one of three people, including Greyton and George Kazanjian, joining the council Jan. 4. Fountain, Atkinson, Marsan, Campagnone, Ciulla and Lisa Yarid Ferry won reelection last month.
Ferry and Kazanjian did not return voice messages.
Councilors Michael Condon, Jennifer Kannan and Jeanne Pappalardo did not run for reelection.
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