By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — In a resounding victory, Mayor Stephen Zanni was elected to a second term last night over challenger Jennifer Kannan — earning 57 percent of the vote to Kannan’s 43 percent.
“It was a landslide victory,” Zanni told a crowd of supporters at the Sons of Italy. “The plan worked. The message worked.”
Zanni received 4,967 votes to Kannan’s 3,683. Turnout in the municipal election was 30 percent. In all, 8,772 ballots were cast in a city with 29,111 registered voters.
Zanni, 69, a retired teacher and school administrator, said his top second-term priority will be completing the ongoing Methuen High School renovation and expansion. Zanni also said he hopes to revamp the high school’s athletic facilities and promote the high school auditorium as a performing arts center worthy of attracting several big-name acts each year.
Zanni said his margin of victory serves as a referendum on his first two years in office — including his repeated attempts at privatizing the municipal Information Technology department.
“The people are definitely behind me,” Zanni said.
The City Council voted down IT privatization several times during Zanni’s first term. Zanni said he will once again push to privatize the department if there is support from the newly-elected council, which will have six returning members.
“There’s no entitlements here,” said Zanni. “If people aren’t doing their job, we have to look at that.”
Kannan, 48, a Realtor who is serving her sixth consecutive year as a city councilor-at-large, met with supporters last night at the Sweetheart Inn on Myrtle Street.
“I felt that we ran a pretty good campaign,” said Kannan. “I always believe in the people’s voice, and they spoke.”
Kannan will be forced to leave council at the end of the year due to term limits. As for her political future, Kannan did not say what’s next.
“I’m just thanking all my supporters,” said Kannan. “No decisions in the next few days.”
Several voters interviewed outside the polls yesterday said they were happy with Zanni.
“I felt like he’s done well by us for the last two years,” said Fran Magro of Jefferson Road. “I wanted to stick with the same.”
“I’ll be glad to see him come back,” said Currier Avenue resident Susan Earnshaw.
Several voters said they thought Zanni had more education and experience than Kannan, including Mike Colbert of Cornelie Road and Joe Rousseau of Kimball Circle.
“I think he’s done a pretty fair job and he’s got the business sense,” said Rousseau. “She’s run a business but not a business the size of Methuen.”
Others interviewed said Zanni’s leadership with the high school project was the top issue on their minds.
Central Street resident Jill Sparks said she credited Zanni with getting the high school project back on track after a budget snafu in late 2011. With a daughter in the seventh grade, Sparks said it’s important to her family that the project is completed on schedule.
“We’ve got to keep going in the right direction,” said Sparks. “It took somebody like Mayor Zanni to get it back on track.”
Others voters favored Kannan for her reputation as a hard worker.
Jane Abesamra of Jackson Street said she liked that Kannan has four family members who work for the city.
Kannan’s brother, Richard Aziz Jr., is a lieutenant with the Methuen Fire Department. 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 daughter, Brittney Kannan, is a teacher’s aide at Marsh Grammar School. Kannan’s sister-in-law, Maria Becotte, works as a teacher at the Marsh. Her father is also a retired Methuen fire lieutenant.
“She’s a Methuen girl,” said Abesamra. “I like the fact that her family serves the community. And I like her business savvy.”
David Morse of Blake Street said he voted for Kannan because Zanni has favored School Department employees over those on the municipal side during his first term.
“All he cares about is his cronies in the education system,” said Zanni.
Zanni was first elected mayor in 2011, beating Al DiNuccio by just 34 votes — 4,450 to 4,416 — in the closest mayoral election in Methuen history. Prior to that, Zanni served six years as a councilor-at-large.
Zanni said he will continue to keep an open-door policy with councilors during his second term.
Zanni told supporters last night that he surrounded himself with a solid team and was successful in bringing respect to the mayor’s office.
“I wanted to be a mayor you could be proud of and I think I’ve accomplished that over these two years,” said Zanni.
“The people of Methuen were looking for good government, honest government and taking it in the right direction. And I think that’s what we’ve done the last two years.”
Zanni said he will continue working to make government more cost effective in an effort to limit property tax increases.
“Tomorrow I’ll be back at work, but taking a lot of your thoughts and ideas with me to make Methuen better,” said Zanni.