EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 31, 2013

Editorial: Zanni offers Methuen professional leadership

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Methuen residents are proud of their community’s small-town heritage, so much so that its official name was once “The City Known as the Town of Methuen.”

That small-town sensibility manifests itself in a friendly, open spirit among residents. But Methuen is also a bustling suburban community of more than 47,000 people with an urban core. Methuen needs professional leadership.

It is getting that professional leadership from Mayor Stephen Zanni. We encourage voters to re-elect Mayor Zanni on Election Day, Nov. 5.

Zanni has brought a more professional demeanor to City Hall, insisting early on in his administration that city workers show up on-time and treat residents — their customers — courteously and professionally.

Zanni has practiced those same standards of professionalism in the mayor’s office as well.

As he took office, the $98 million high school renovation project was facing million of dollars in cost overruns. Continuing work begun by former Mayor William Manzi and supported by the school building committee, Zanni hired a new contractor and got the project back on track. Part of the renovated high school opened for students this fall. The remainder of the work will be completed by next summer.

Zanni’s critics, including his opponent, Jennifer Kannan, say the mayor takes too much credit for reviving the high school project. To be sure, the process of turning around the high school project began in the Manzi administration. But it is also certain that, had the turnaround failed, Zanni would be getting the lion’s share of the blame right now.

Kannan, an at-large city councilor, is personable and friendly, displaying those characteristics of which Methuen is rightly proud. But Kannan in her campaign lacks specific details on the direction in which she would take the city.

On economic development matters, Zanni wants to continue to build and maintain the city’s manufacturing base, as he did by convincing Century Box to drop plans to move to North Carolina and expand its facility on Chase Street. That effort should create 100 new jobs in Methuen.

By contrast, Kannan says she wants to clean up graffiti and roadside weeds, which she says will encourage business development.

Zanni was also on target with his proposal to privatize the city’s Information Technology Department, which could save the city $250,000 a year. The proposal was rejected by the City Council, with Kannan joining in the opposition.

This year’s mayoral campaign has seen some very nasty moments, including some advertisements produced by the Laborers Union Local 175 featuring an unflattering Kannan reaching into a “cookie jar” to snag some treats for her family.

While the ads are despicable, they raise a valid campaign issue: Members of Kannan’s immediate family work in the fire, police and school departments. As mayor, Kannan would not be able to take a strong and necessary role in negotiating contracts with the unions representing her family members. The budgets for those departments total $86 million of Methuen’s $145 million budget.

Kannan’s main criticism of Zanni is that he is not sufficiently friendly, open or outgoing. Zanni was not elected to be Methuen’s pal but rather its chief executive. Methuen voters would do well to return him to that role for another term.