By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — Barring a late entry, just two candidates will run in the upcoming mayoral election — incumbent Stephen Zanni and challenger Jennifer Kannan.
Only Zanni, Kannan and Morgan Drive resident Joseph Leone have pulled nomination papers for mayor. But yesterday, Leone told The Eagle-Tribune he will not run for office. Instead, Leone endorsed Zanni’s bid for a second two-year term.
“I’ll see what I can do to help him get re-elected,” said Leone, a former city councilor now serving as vice chairman of the Methuen Community Development Board.
Potential candidates in the Nov. 5 municipal election have until Friday at 5 p.m. to obtain nomination papers from the city clerk’s office. Those papers must then be returned with the required amount of signatures by July 30.
With four days to go before Friday’s deadline, 17 residents have pulled papers for nine City Council seats. The field of potential candidates for the six available seats on the School Committee remains at 11.
In a press release announcing his decision not to run for mayor, Leone wrote that he shares “with many Methuen residents a high level of disappointment and frustration with how Methuen government has at times operated, but I believe that Steve Zanni deserves another term to continue the progress he has made for the citizens of Methuen.”
Leone, 66, credited Zanni with economic development in the city and progress with the Methuen High School expansion and renovation project. Leone is a member of the city’s building committee that oversees the school project.
“The mayor has done a fine job in keeping the Methuen High School project on time and under budget, and deserves an opportunity to see that through,” Leone wrote.
Leone’s endorsement of Zanni comes one month after Zanni’s previous challenger, Al DiNuccio, threw his support behind the mayor. Zanni defeated DiNuccio in the 2011 mayoral election and took office in January 2012.
DiNuccio said he will not run for office this year.
Kannan is a city councilor-at-large wrapping up her third consecutive two-year term. Term limits will force both Kannan and West District Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo off the City Council at the end of the year.
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 other seven incumbent city councilors are expected to seek reelection this November.
So far, seven residents have pulled papers for the three councilor-at-large seats: Incumbents Joyce Campagnone and Michael Condon and potential challengers James Jajuga, Daniel Grayton, Sharon Birchall, Robert LeBlanc and Jean Imholt.
Though she pulled papers, Imholt will not run for office, according to her husband, congressional candidate Timothy Imholt.
There are two council seats apiece in the city’s East, West and Central districts.
In the East District, incumbents Thomas Ciulla and Ron Marsan and potential challenger Thomas E. Firth III have pulled papers. In the Central District, incumbents Jamie Atkinson and Lisa Ferry are joined by potential challenger Jack Cronin. In the West District, incumbent Sean Fountain is joined by three potential challengers: Evan Chaison, George Kazanjian and Ken Willette Jr.
These 11 residents have pulled papers for School Committee: Bryan Sweet, Dennis DJ Deeb, Robert Vogler, Jonathan Trunfio, Lynne Hajjar Kumm, Mary Jean Fawcett, Thomas Grondine, Richard Philbrick, Kevin LeBourdais, Jeri-an Batal and Richard Beshara.
Deeb also pulled papers for Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee, along with Barbara Grondine. Three residents have pulled papers for the Methuen Housing Authority board: Kenneth Henrick, Frank Gallo and Richard True. Two residents have pulled papers for the Nevins Memorial Library Board of Trustees: Josephine Napolitano and Arthur Nicholson.