EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 16, 2013

Familiar names line up for city election

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Residents won't elect a mayor or city councilors until November, but the field of candidates is taking shape with a few familiar names already in the mix.

Al DiNuccio said he is considering another run for mayor, bringing the field of potential candidates to three. Mayor Stephen Zanni will run for reelection this fall and City Councilor Jennifer Kannan is contemplating a mayoral challenge of her own.

As for City Council, former mayoral candidate Kenneth Willette Jr. said he will run for councilor-at-large and School Committeeman Evan Chaisson said he is throwing his hat in the ring for West District councilor.

Former council chairman Jack Cronin is also planning a return to elected office, most likely in the Central District council race.

Zanni announced his intention to run for a second two-year term in early October, just nine months after taking office last January. In November 2011, Zanni narrowly defeated DiNuccio by 34 votes out of about 8,900 cast in an election that required a recount.

A local businessman, DiNuccio also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Methuen mayor in 2009 and state representative in 2010. DiNuccio said he sat down with a small group of supporters Monday night for an informal discussion about his plans for the fall.

"I'm not 100 percent sure that I'm running but I'm also not 100 percent sure that I'm not running," quipped DiNuccio yesterday.

Kannan, who serves as a councilor-at-large on the City Council, announced she was considering a mayoral run in mid October. Yesterday, Kannan said she won't announce her final decision until the spring.

"Nothing official yet but I'm still considering," said Kannan. "I'm still talking to a lot of my supporters."

Term limits will force both Kannan and West District Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo off the City Council at the end of 2013.

Mayors, city councilors and School Committee members are limited to serving three consecutive two-year terms under the city charter. After sitting out one term, candidates are then eligible to run again.

The departure of Kannan and Pappalardo leaves vacancies on the council Willette and Chaisson are hoping to fill.

Willette ran for mayor in 2011 but lost in the primary election. He is a former School Committee member, having served three separate two-year stints, and also served three consecutive terms as city councilor-at-large from 2004 to 2009.

Willette was critical of both Mayor Zanni and the City Council yesterday. He said they failed to fulfill campaign promises and instead have voted to inflate the budget with new hires, raise property taxes, implement a local meals tax and raise ambulance rates.

"They came in with optimism and positive intentions," said Willette. "I'm seeing an ultra-liberal agenda being implemented and Methuen is an ultra-conservative town."

Chaisson is serving the final year of a six-year stint on the School Committee. He will be forced to leave the committee due to term limits along with Barbara Grondine. Chaisson said he has developed a strong track record after first running for office in 2008 at age 24.

"I'm a fiscal conservative," said Chaisson. "I've taken many tough budget votes to help the city of Methuen. I have a background in reform."

Cronin, who also ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011, is contemplating an election bid to regain the Central District council seat he occupied from 2006 to 2011. The district is currently represented by councilors Jamie Atkinson and Lisa Ferry.

Cronin is a veteran Methuen politician, having first served on the town council in the 1970s. If he doesn't run for council, Cronin said he will consider running for either the Methuen Housing Authority or Greater Lawrence Technical School boards this fall.

"Right now I'm leaning to council but that could change," said Cronin. "It's a little early yet."