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Meet the candidates running for office in Haverhill

  • 18 min to read

HAVERHILL — Voters on Tuesday, Nov. 2, will be casting ballots for mayor, city council, and school committee and will decide on two ballot questions about changing the city’s charter to allow for at-large and ward city councilors and school committee members.

To help voters make a more informed decision on Election Day, The Eagle-Tribune asked each candidate why they are running and also what they consider the most pressing issue their community is facing and how they would address it.

One ballot question asks voters for their opinion on increasing the size of the city council from its current nine members to 11 members, with four elected at-large and seven by district. Councilors would continue serving two-year terms.

The other ballot question asks voters for their opinion on increasing the size of the school committee from its current six members plus the mayor as chairman, to nine members, with five elected by district and three at-large, plus the mayor as chairman. The question would also change the terms of office from the current four years to two years.

Both questions are non-binding, meaning, the results of the vote would simply serve as advisory to the city council.

Here are the candidates’ responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity. Their names appear in the same order as on the ballot.

To find your polling location, visit the Secretary of State’s website at www.sec.state.ma.us.

Meet Haverhill’s Mayoral candidates

James Fiorentini (incumbent)

Why he’s running

“To keep our city moving forward. Downtown, we can redevelop Merrimack Street, bring in more restaurants and shops, and open access to the river. At the Consentino School, we can redo that school and improve other schools without an override. In our industrial parks, we have 800 to 1,200 new jobs coming in and need space to bring in more jobs. I am uniquely qualified to manage these times. I have submitted 18 balanced budgets in a row without requesting an override. If you needed a doctor, would you take the doctor with 18 years of experience, or the new guy just starting out?”

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

“Our key issues are education, public safety, and housing. The city faces a critical shortage of housing. We need housing that will allow our children, grandchildren and elderly parents to be able to find a home and be able to afford to live here. This has to be balanced with our need to preserve the charm and beauty of our city. We need more 55-and-over housing, and we need more housing that middle class families can afford to live in. I have proposed an inclusivity plan that will require that each new development include some housing for middle class and working residents.”

Colin LePage

Why he’s running

“I believe Haverhill needs a better plan for the future. The current administration has run out of ideas after 18 years. We need a change. We need new ideas for school safety, new ideas for affordable housing, new ideas for economic development and new ideas for public safety and community inclusion. I’ve introduced plans for all these issues. Haverhill is changing. We need a mayor to lead that change. I believe my experience in government, my knowledge of the community and my ideas for the future make me the best candidate to meet the challenges ahead.”

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

“School safety amid the COVID-19 recovery is the most pressing issue we face. The current administration failed to provide a sufficient plan for school safety after our students were out of the classroom for a year. We’re seeing the results of that failure. I will move forward with a school safety plan that will encompass all stakeholders, including teachers, students, administrators, school counselors and public safety professionals. Unlike the current mayor, I will not act retroactively with a Band-Aid solution that fails to address the roots of the disciplinary problems we’re experiencing. Our children deserve better leadership from city hall.”

Meet Haverhill’s City Council candidates

Melissa Lewandowski

Why she’s running

I have 25 years professional and government experience in persuasion, collaboration, making smart plans and executing them. I’m a lawyer and advocate. I have a strong moral foundation, ability to walk in another’s shoes, a devotion to facts, ability to listen, form coalitions, clear headed judgement and strong leadership abilities. I’m running to support the city I was born and raised in. Invest in our schools, police and fire departments, address the homeless crisis, preserve open spaces, revitalize the river, release funds to repair infrastructure, and develop a business development team to target commercial growth for jobs and increased vitality.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Attending to the Merrimack River, downtown Haverhill, and the Haverhill schools. If we are to transform Haverhill, we must invest in all of them. Not just bring in development that will overcrowd without also balancing that with investment in schools, police, fire, greenspaces and business growth. My plan — Downtown revitalization and public safety. Create networking opportunities for graduating students. Reclaim historical buildings. Use development groups to renovate neighborhoods. Adjust zoning for more industry. We can’t remain in endless debate. We are what we do, not what we say. That’s true of individuals and of elected officials.

Timothy Jordan (incumbent)

Why he’s running

Because I love Haverhill. I believe that my skill set as a financial advisor is very beneficial. I understand the need to live within a budget, but also the need to invest for our city’s success. In my four years on the council, I have been a strong advocate for a better preventative maintenance program of school and city buildings, a champion for increased public safety of both staffing levels and equipment (including replacing two, 33-year-old fire trucks), and preservation of open space.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Providing sufficient infrastructure to keep up with the needs of our growing and vibrant city. Our population has increased by roughly 10,000 people over the past 20 years. Despite this growth, the staffing level of our fire department has decreased while the number of runs they have responded to has more than doubled. Many of our schools are near or at capacity and our students are struggling post-pandemic. I will continue to push hard for increased investments in our schools and our fire and police departments.

Bill Taylor

Why he’s running

Service is central to my life and my faith. Right now, I believe the best way I can serve our community is on the Haverhill City Council. I have ideas about how we can confront our city’s long-standing challenges and chart a new course toward a more vibrant and equitable future.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

We need more affordable housing. Over these last few years, developers are building more and more housing that’s beyond the financial reach of a vast majority of Haverhill residents. This trend needs to end. Going forward, we should instead encourage developments that meet the affordability needs of our working families, seniors, folks with disabilities, and other marginalized populations. That means more subsidized and workforce housing and a mix of clustered housing types. But that does not mean we should build anywhere and everywhere. We should leverage infrastructure and resources in our existing neighborhoods to meet our needs and limit sprawl.

Melinda Barrett (incumbent)

Why she’s running

To continue the work of protecting our neighborhoods, improving public safety, and supporting our schools. Advocating for our unique neighborhoods, supporting effective police and fire departments in a growing community, and supporting teachers, staff and students in our schools are the constant challenges we must address by continuing vigorous scrutiny of how our tax dollars are spent on these priorities.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Responsible growth: We need to create opportunities for home ownership and protecting neighborhoods instead of creating opportunities for well-heeled developers at the expense of our zoning laws and sacrificing the unique character of our neighborhoods. I will continue defending the needs of our neighborhoods over the demands of excessive development. We will welcome responsible expansion of our economy with responsible growth, but I am prepared to oppose proposals that flood neighborhood streets with traffic, reduce our capacity for public safety, overburden our schools and destroy the character of Haverhill’s unique neighborhoods.

Catherine Rogers

Why she’s running

I am running to offer a fresh leadership perspective for the city of Haverhill. I am the type of person that would rather dive in and solve a problem, rather than just complain about it. I feel I am well qualified with a unique background which will contribute to my success on Haverhill City Council. My main focuses will be strategic development, preserving agriculture, and fiscal responsibility. We need to make sure we maintain our schools and public buildings with care and improve our infrastructure. I take pride in my ability to use common sense and taking an optimistic approach to solving the issues that Haverhill is faced with.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

New development and our city infrastructure. It’s no secret that we are currently in a housing crisis. We have to have a balanced approach when it comes to adding new residents and businesses while also taking care of what we already have. It’s important to be good stewards of our city and make sure our infrastructure can support the current residents, but also create more housing. I hope to work alongside all city departments and builders to make sure the projects are a good fit for everyone.

Shaun Toohey

Why he’s running

Because I am committed to Haverhill. I have been married for over 23 years to my wife Tatum and we have raised two children, Delainey and Jack, who both attended Haverhill Public Schools. I own two businesses in Haverhill, KC Carpets & Seaman & Toohey Insurance. In addition, I served on the Haverhill School Committee for 14 years. I believe my business experience along with my 14 years in local government, will allow me to move Haverhill forward & help our city grow and thrive.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

As costs continue to rise, we need to make sure we keep Haverhill affordable. The most important issue facing our city is the rising cost of living due to shortages and inflation. Inflation acts like a regressive tax that affects family incomes. Therefore, my number one priority will be to insist on responsible budgets that will not require a “tax to the max” on residential property owners. Every time I take a vote, I will think about the impact a vote will have on the future of our community.

Kenneth Stevenson

Why he’s running

My primary reason for running is to be a voice for those that have seen and unseen disabilities, especially unseen. I want to be an advocate for those that may need accommodations in our city. I have personally experienced the lack of support for those with unseen disabilities and now is time for change.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

The lack of unity in our city. We can’t start addressing the needs of Haverhill until we are united as a city. The voices of Haverhill are not represented in our leadership. We have areas in our city that don’t feel they are being heard. I want to help bridge the gap and facilitate within the leadership that represents Haverhill. What is on the leadership agenda should benefit all of Haverhill not just parts of it.

John Michitson (incumbent)

Why he’s running

Haverhill has been good to me and my generation. In these turbulent times, I bring a unique and experienced perspective to city council that you will need. I am a 10-term city councilor, former five-term city council president, and electrical engineer and project leader for MITRE Corporation. I want to ensure completion of the unprecedented opportunity to provide all kids and adults in Haverhill, at all income levels, an affordable fiber-optic broadband network for learning, work, tele-health and TV at a substantially lower cost than the current monopoly offers. The fiber network would be built at no cost to the taxpayer.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

I want to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities that my generation had. Last year, COVID hurt our kids, especially their mental health which impacted their education, which is their ticket to fulfilling jobs. I will continue to be an unabashed advocate of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). I know there are good jobs in these fields, and I want to help bring innovative businesses here. Innovation leads to advancement for our entire community. I will continue to actively seek the pathway where education meets employment, and support youth agencies and mental health services to help kids.

Tomas Michel

Why he’s running

To promote equity in the community I serve, one action at a time. I have a vision to impact individuals, institutions, and structures to exercise behaviors, policies, and procedures compliant with the rule of law; a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated and consistent with international human rights principles.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

One of the key issues I will focus on will be promoting commerce, empowering small businesses towards sustainability and growth, and providing opportunities, tools, resources, and support for entrepreneurs to begin their start-ups in the city. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I witnessed firsthand that there are insurmountable inequities taking place in our communities, and not enough citizens trying to help. I decided that I needed to be more intentional and contribute with as much as I could to balance the levers, whether being a better friend in my immediate circle or helping somebody to navigate a government process more effectively.

Dee Jacobs O’Neil

Why she’s running

I want to bring a transparent, and accountable government to Haverhill. Our citizens feel like their concerns fall on deaf ears. I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of residents and many have the same concerns. The majority of these concerns are the safety of our citizens, children, and our property. My hope is to not only fully staff the city with adequate public safety personnel, I also hope to humanize our first responders to our citizens. Keeping Haverhill safe and affordable is my goal. We all must be held accountable for our actions and inactions.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Accountability and transparency is an issue in Haverhill. Implementing internal audits on every municipal department will assure an efficient government free of corruption. I will unite the government, the citizens, and the private sector to work together to achieve our goals. I will implement procedures for federal and private grants for funding of programs such as CARES, to work with those with substance abuse disorder.

I will request reallocations of the budget and seek major changes in our charter. I will bring new policies and procedures to the council, and set firm deadlines for committees to respond to the citizens.

Thomas Sullivan (incumbent)

Why he’s running

I am running in order to continue my efforts to improve all facets of life here in the city. From public education and public safety improvements, to infrastructure and public parks and recreational facilities improvements. Most importantly I believe I have valuable experience and knowledge to make the quality of life better for all citizens of Haverhill, including the growing minority population. As we recover from the pandemic, If re-elected, I hope to participate in the important decisions to be made with the $38 million we have available in federal recovery money. Transformational and transparent change is in our future.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

The work involved to change the form of our local government. In essence the city is being forced to voluntarily change our city council and school committee composition from at-large to a combination of at-large and ward councilors and district school committee members. It is important that we do this right and do this well, with the ultimate goal leading a more inclusive and diverse representation of local leaders in the future.

Fred Simmons

Why he’s running

Because I believe in being the voice of over 67,000 residents and bringing new ideas, attracting new businesses and improving our public safety. Along with new businesses, we also need to plan for expansion of new housing, including low-income and affordable housing and elderly housing. Also investing in our infrastructure such as new schools, fixing our city buildings, roads and sidewalks. All chapter 70 money should go to schools. We should push our legislators to bring in more money for our bridges and our wastewater treatment plant. Don’t Haverhill citizens deserve the best?

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

One issue is Combined Sewer Overflow, which is causing raw sewage to pour into the Merrimack River during rain storms. I would work with our state legislators to push for federal money to solve this problem and also fund replacement of the Basiliere Bridge, which is falling apart. Another is the need to build two new schools to replace Consentino and Whittier middle schools in the next five years. Our bond rating is at a all-time high. We can’t wait. It will cost more the longer we wait.

Michael McGonagle (incumbent)

Why he’s running

I believe that the next two years in Haverhill’s history is going to have an important and long lasting impact for decades to come. There is approximately $38 million earmarked for Haverhill from Federal Build-Back Better programs and other funds that need to be allocated efficiently and effectively. With the potential of new leadership from the corner office to the city council, I would like to be a steadying force so that all of our citizens get a positive impact from the allotment of these new funds. Hopefully, we can finally bring comfort, safety and prosperity to the neighborhoods which have been neglected over the last 18 years.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Public safety of all residents is the most important obligation a government owes its citizens. I would continue to press the mayor to invest unprecedented resources in our neighborhoods who have been forgotten for far too long. As an advocate for educational spending, and public safety investment, we can offer a high quality of life to every neighborhood in our city. I feel when we invest in the futures of our children, by giving them the proper tools to succeed, we can change the narrative and the outcome for all of our stakeholders.

Josiah Morrow

Why he’s running

To lead the next generation of Hillies in taking responsibility for our city’s future. I have worked in our community for years as a Downtown Parking Commissioner and leading groups supporting small businesses and those suffering from addiction and developmental disabilities. Service to Haverhill runs in my family, including my grandfather, State Rep. Scotty Morrow. On day one I would bring experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Having knocked on 2,000 doors campaigning, no one has worked harder for your vote, and no one would work harder for you in office.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

At this moment, our biggest challenge is seeking to make Haverhill more affordable for families to come into our city and for current ones to remain here. To address this, I would support a prioritization of affordable developments in our city in accordance with what our infrastructure can handle, and keep our expectations of taxpayers reasonable and responsible to avoid burdening them further financially.

Katrina Hobbs Everett

Why she’s running

I have over 23 years of hands-on experience in social work and community engagement to bring with me to the council. I have demonstrated my passion for this community through being involved in many collaborative local and state committees aimed at moving the needle on various city issues across all demographics. I have shown my long-term dedication to the people of this community through my nonprofit and service work. Lastly, I have demonstrated proven leadership by mobilizing the community and uniting in ways that work across difference. I am bringing innovative, commonsense solutions to help guide this city forward.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Haverhill is a city with tremendous potential and unique demographic challenges. I believe the most pressing issue facing the city is the disconnect within Haverhill’s communities as the result of rapid housing development that lacks consideration for current residents. As city councilor, I will be the bridge that connects old and new Haverhill to solutions that will allow those communities to co-exist and thrive. Housing developments need to be equitable with consideration of how those developments will impact current residents, city resources, and the future of Haverhill.

Joseph Bevilacqua (incumbent)

Why he’s running

I have spent my life working hard to move our community forward. I led Haverhill’s Planning & Economic Development Department where I helped revitalize our local economy at a time when others would have given up. As a School Committee member, I stood with parents to finally put a focus on updating school facilities while putting more teachers in the classroom. As your City Councilor, I have never forgotten that my number one job is to stand with you and fight for our shared values.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

I don’t think it’s one, I think a multitude of issues and they are all equally important. They include protecting your hard earned tax dollars and not tax to the max, creating affordable housing for both seniors and young families, providing a quality education for your children and grandchildren, creating good jobs and supporting economic development for you and your family, having strong public safety for a safe city for you and your family and having an environmentally conscious city. I am the only councilor to oppose all five pot shops in your neighborhoods.

Kenneth Quimby Jr.

Why he’s running

I’m a former City Councilor and have always wanted to help the city of Haverhill. I love and I care about my city and its residents and I feel that I can bring honesty and sincerity to the council and I want to work with the council as a team. I’m open minded and that’s how I will be, and I won’t be making rash decisions without learning about the topic, whether it’s a housing development or the annual budget.

What is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

We need more police and more firefighters as the city has grown. We also need more elderly housing. People are living longer and it can be expensive to live on a fixed income. We need more elderly housing such as Phoenix Row, Merrivista, Mission Towers and Kennedy Circle. I would try to reach out to developers who are interested in creating elderly housing. Many of the housing projects that have come forward have not included any elderly housing.

Meet Haverhill School Committee candidates

Maura Ryan-Ciardiello (incumbent)

Why she’s running

I want to give back to the community where I’ve made my home with my three sons. My focus shall remain on our children and fulfilling their needs, while balancing the needs of our community. My care is for our children and our taxpayers who are asked to support public education. In Haverhill, the tradition of “paying it forward,” where one generation helps the other, continues. Our children are best served by taxpayers who are eager to support student achievement, and where each child is given the tools they need to flourish. This requires the highest quality programming that is solidly, and efficiently funded.

What is the most pressing issue facing the school department and how would you address it?

Meeting the social and emotional needs of our children is just as important to success as an effective academic curriculum.

Students, teachers and staff have had to adapt in unprecedented ways over the past two years. As a parent and a teacher by profession, I understand the difficult challenges firsthand. Ensuring support for our teachers to help them continue to establish connections with students, families, and colleagues is my priority; I will continue to encourage parents to reach out. When parents are involved, students can and will succeed.

I will advocate for more state and federal funding to meet these needs so we can ensure students feel safe and keep our local taxes affordable.

Richard Rosa (incumbent)

Why he’s running

I have nearly 8,000 reasons to run for re-election. Some of those reasons are in the class of 2034, our kindergartners. Some make up the class of 2022, our Haverhill High School seniors. Our youngest Hillies attend the same pre-school my twin boys attended 16 years ago, the Moody School. What all Haverhill students have in common is that they need our support. I am running to serve on the Haverhill School Committee because I want to continue working to help all Haverhill students reach their potential and get value for every tax dollar spent.

What is the most pressing issue facing the school department and how would you address it?

Recovering from the pandemic. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which together represent more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children’s hospitals, recently declared our country’s mental health crisis among children a national emergency. We must effectively use federal and state money earmarked for pandemic recovery to support the needs of students, educators, and other staff. We can help students and staff and improve academic success districtwide with additional school counselors, targeted professional development, and increased family engagement.

Miguel Andres Quinones

Why he’s running

Because it would give me an opportunity to continue to do educational youth work at another level. I have worked for the school system, I have worked for nonprofits, and I have worked for national programs and this felt like the next stage in my career. As a parent, an employee and a partner of Haverhill Public Schools, I experienced some things in the system that need to be changed. This is how I do something about it. This is how I can best utilize my skills to impact the youth in Haverhill who I have been serving for over 10 years.

What is the most pressing issue facing the school department and how would you address it?

A lack of quality programs and impactful staff. I would advocate for programs that work and that tackle our actual issues. We cannot be satisfied with just having after school programs. We need to ensure we are providing quality support and programming that works and creates the positive changes we want to see.

Paul Magliocchetti (incumbent)

Why he’s running

Because of the importance of free quality public education and its impact on Haverhill families. High standards in our classrooms, fiscal responsibility, and accountability are priorities. I work collaboratively with parents, teachers, and administrators, to continuously improve our schools. I support educational programs and capital improvement programs that improve education and increase federal and state contributions, which saves local taxpayers millions of dollars every year. When COVID struck, I worked tirelessly to get our children back in the classroom. I pledge to always use my experience, passion and leadership skills to get the job done for all the people of Haverhill.

What is the most pressing issue facing the school department and how would you address it?

How do we continue to provide high quality public education to all the children of Haverhill, while maintaining a balanced budget. I will continue to support programs that have delivered proven results like free all-day kindergarten, expanded pre-school, city wide early literacy, life skills programs, expanded vocational opportunities at Haverhill High School, academies at HHS, and early college. We must strategically use COVID relief funds to increase student support services to deal with the learning loss and mental health issues associated with COVID-19. I will ensure that we continue to increase classroom support, after school and weekend tutoring, vacation and summer learning opportunities, and collaboration with youth organizations.

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