HAVERHILL — It's an election year in Haverhill and as nomination papers are about to be released, one political newcomer has announced he is running for City Council. One incumbent will not be running.

Longtime City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien announced she would not be seeking reelection.

When residents go to the polls in November, they will be electing their next mayor, who serves two-year terms, the next nine-member City Council, which also serves two-year terms, half of the School Committee, which has six members serving staggered four-year terms, plus the mayor who serves as chairman. Voters will also be choosing candidates for various state offices.

Mayor James Fiorentini in serving his ninth term in office and is considering running for a 10th term.

"I have concentrated on the COVID-19 crisis and getting the vaccine to our residents," Fiorentini said. "I am leaning towards running and will make a final decision in mid-May."

If Fiorentini does run, he will be facing political newcomer Guy Cooper, a Haverhill police officer who announced his candidacy in February, and possibly former Haverhill Harbormaster Tim Slavit, who also said he plans to run for mayor. 

Slavit said he is so frustrated with city officials in his efforts to bring a tour boat to the city that he decided to run for mayor.

As a precursor to his campaign, Slavit has been driving around town in a van bearing, in big letters, "Flush Fiorentini."

"I welcome the competition," the mayor said. "If I decide to run it gives me an opportunity to show all the good things that have been done in our community."

COVID-19 has changed the rules for campaigning

Longtime City Councilor William Macek says that unless there are major changes to rules in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, this election season will be like no other he's seen.

"You are not supposed to be going door-to-door but you can do things like hold a virtual campaign event, send out mailings, set out campaign signs and hold campaign signs on street corners," Macek said.

Activities such as meeting the public in front of local supermarkets are not in play at this time, he added.

"I think it would be frowned upon and that you would lose votes, not gain votes," he said. "The pandemic changes the whole game as the rules have changed." 

Political newcomers

Haverhill native Josiah Morrow, 19, a downtown parking commissioner for the city who works as a COVID-19 screener for Merrivista on Water Street says he's considering running for City Council and will make a decision in a few weeks. 

He comes from a family of public servants. His grandfather, the late Scotty Morrow, was a state representative for Haverhill during the 1950s and 60s and also served on the school committee. His cousin, William Morrow, served on the City Council in the 1980s.

"I believe we are in a once-in-a-generation crisis that will require a new generation of leadership," said Josiah Morrow, a sophomore at Merrimack College majoring in political science.

Bill Taylor, 40, a data center administrator in downtown Boston who describes himself as a progressive candidate, said he has filed a Statement of Organization with the city clerk's office and will submit nomination paperwork when it becomes available on May 3. 

Taylor says his platform includes demilitarizing the police, eliminating school resource officers, increasing per pupil spending, pushing for ward-based councilors and school committee members, and increasing the city's stock of affordable housing.

"I love Haverhill, but the city also clearly faces many systemic challenges," Taylor said. "Housing is increasingly unaffordable. Our schools have been underfunded for decades. Much of our downtown needs to be rebuilt, and our small business sector needs to be revitalized. Our antiquated sewer system dumps millions of gallons of wastewater into the Merrimack each year and we’re in the midst of a racial reckoning — one that must continue."

Taylor wants the police department to relinquish a $658,000 mine resistant vehicle the city acquired through the federal military surplus program at no cost.

"We should give the mine resistant vehicle that remains in our possession back or responsibly dispose of it," he said. "Such armament belongs on battlefields, not on Haverhill’s streets."

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