By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — With a former Methuen town manager, a former state senator and a recent college graduate among the candidates on the ballot, the councilor-at-large race features a mix of political veterans and newcomers.
Five candidates are vying for three at-large seats, which represent the entire city. The only incumbent seeking re-election is Joyce Campagnone, 67, seeking a second two-year term.
Campagnone said the biggest issue is rising property taxes. Campagnone wants to keep police in city neighborhoods and will consider privatizing the municipal Information Technology department.
The two other incumbent councilors-at-large are not seeking re-election. Michael Condon is retiring from city politics and Jennifer Kannan is challenging Mayor Stephen Zanni’s re-election bid.
Campagnone is joined on the ballot by two other experienced Methuen pols — Robert LeBlanc and James Jajuga. Also on the ballot are first-time candidates Sharon Birchall, 56, and Daniel Grayton, 23.
LeBlanc, 68, a lawyer who was Methuen town manager from 1976 to 1981, and a councilor-at-large for two terms in the 1980s, has pledged not to vote for a residential property tax increase if he is elected.
LeBlanc boasts about his integrity and ethics, despite recent allegations that he was banned from Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS) for allegedly stalking a male high school student.
The Eagle-Tribune reported earlier this month that LeBlanc was sent letters banning him from the GLTS campus in 2005, and from all Barnes & Noble bookstores in 2002.
LeBlanc has said the letters are baseless and were circulated as a personal attack.
Jajuga, 66, is a retired state trooper. He served in the Massachusetts Legislature as a state senator from 1991 to 2001, and was the state’s secretary of public safety under Governor Jane Swift from 2001 to 2002.
More recently, Jajuga served as president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce from 2007 to 2012.
Though a newcomer to city politics, Birchall is currently a board member with several area organizations. Birchall said she will bring fresh ideas to the council and will remain accessible to her constituents, if elected.
Birchall also said the council must find a way to reduce expenses without reducing services.
Grayton is a recent college graduate who said he wants to bring an outside perspective to the City Council. Grayton said he will work to improve communication between the mayor and council.
To tackle the problem of rising taxes, Grayton said he will push for more efficient spending within the operating budget.