By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — Modesto Maldonado has been absent from the City Council since giving up his seat after just one term in 2011, but he would return as its most powerful member if he wins his bid for the presidency on Thursday.
Maldonado quit his seat representing the Arlington neighborhood for what he said were personal reasons, then ran for an at-large seat in November, finishing second in a field of six. He would not say whether he is seeking the council presidency, but councilors Kendrys Vasquez and Estela Reyes said he asked for their support for the job and will get it.
Their votes, along with his own, would give Maldonado three of the five votes needed to lead the nine-member council.
Councilor Roger Twomey said he also is seeking the presidency, and several councilors said Council Elieen Bernal has asked them to support her for the position. She could not be reached.
None of the councilors who returned phone calls and were willing to discuss their choice for president said they were supporting Twomey at this point. Councilor Sandy Almonte said she will support either Maldonado or Bernal.
Almonte considered and abandoned a bid for a leadership position, saying it would detract from her work providing constituent services.
“Vice chair? Chair?,” she said, referring to the vice presidency and presidency. “I got enough on my plate.”
Vasquez said he is supporting Maldonado because of his temperament. The two have been political allies for longer than two years, including when Maldonado, 63, mentored Vasquez, 27, as he ran for the District C seat Maldonado was giving up.
“I don’t think he’ll be the kind of person who would be pushy,” Vasquez said. “He’ll allow councilors to make decisions on their own. He’s educated. Well-mannered.”
The new president will be one of the council’s three new leaders following a shakeup brought on by the departure of Council President Frank Moran and Vice President Daniel Rivera. Moran was elected to the statehouse in 2011 and held both the state and city jobs for the last year. Rivera was elected mayor in November and takes office Thursday. Rivera also chaired the council’s budget committee.
Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez, who is returning to the council as and at-large member after serving on it for a decade until 2010, said she will seek the vice presidency at the council’s reorganization meeting Thursday, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Lawrence High School’s Performing Arts Center. The position has few responsibilities beyond chairing the council when the president is absent.
Vasquez said he will seek to replace Rivera as chairman of the council’s Budget Committee.
Maldonado supported Mayor William Lantigua for re-election over Rivera last month. Rivera has said he is not attempting to influence the councilors as they chose their new leaders. He said he expects to “work closely with the council president regardless (of) who is elected.”
Maldonado is a former assistant superintendent at the Greater Lawrence Technical School and owns and manages apartment buildings with about 45 units in Lawrence.
Council presidents chair meetings, set agendas, appoint committee members and typically serve as the council’s liaison to the mayor.
The council president will earn $17,065 this year. The other eight councilors will earn $15,057.
Another shakeup is underway at the School Committee, which also reorganizes Thursday after members take the oath of office. Rivera will replace Lantigua as committee chair. Paval Payano, who is running for state Senate, said he will not seek the vice presidency again. The committee has had no power since the state took over city schools two years ago.