EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 26, 2013

FIRE EXIT: Methuen firefighters shy away from mayoral endorsement

Union was vocal Zanni backer in 2011 race

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — The city’s most politically active union during the 2011 election will not make a mayoral endorsement this fall.

Two years ago, Methuen Firefighters Union Local 1691 was a vocal backer of candidate Stephen Zanni — even going so far as creating an attack website targeting Zanni’s opponent, local businessman Al DiNuccio.

Zanni went on to win the closest mayoral election in city history, edging DiNuccio by 34 votes in a decision that required a recount. Zanni is running for re-election this fall against City Councilor Jennifer Kannan.

On Monday, firefighters’ union President Tim Sheehy told The Eagle-Tribune that Local 1691 does not plan to endorse a mayoral candidate in the Nov. 5 municipal election.

“We like the mayor. We like Jennifer also,” said Sheehy, a lieutenant with the Methuen Fire Department. “It’s just hard when you’ve got two friends who have been good to public safety. That’s pretty much where we’re at.”

Last week, Kannan announced that she has secured endorsements from the city’s two police unions — the Methuen Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Methuen Police Superior Officers Association.

Kannan has family ties to both the police and fire departments. Her son, Billy Kannan Jr., joined the police department as a full-time patrolman in 2012 after serving for several years as a reserve officer. Kannan’s brother, Richard Aziz Jr., is a lieutenant with the Methuen Fire Department. Her father is also a retired Methuen fire lieutenant.

“I get a lot of support from the individual firefighters themselves,” said Kannan on Wednesday. “I can see if they don’t want to make an endorsement. I totally respect that.”

On Tuesday, Zanni said it is difficult to satisfy all Methuen unions. Zanni said he is proud of his work as mayor, and that his administration has provided good services to city residents at an affordable price.

“My responsibility is to represent the taxpayers,” said Zanni. “I’m looking at the job we’re doing here in the city and producing results for the taxpayer. That’s what I’m proud of. I have to balance the needs of all the departments.”

The issue of ambulance privatization was a major reason for the firefighters’ high visibility in the 2011 race. All Methuen firefighters are trained as emergency medical technicians and the ambulance service is run by the Fire Department.

In other cities, like Lawrence and Haverhill, private companies provide ambulance services.

During his mayoral campaign, DiNuccio said he intended look into the privatization of various city services in an effort to save money. But the possibility of outsourcing ambulances received the most attention, thanks in large part to the involvement of the firefighters’ union.

The union created a website, www.doubletalkal.com, warning voters that DiNuccio would “bring Lawrence style public safety to Methuen” and that ambulance privatization would create a $400,000 budget deficit.

“We don’t normally get that involved,” said Sheehy on Monday. “But we had to say something.”