Lowell Politics in 2013

By Richard P. Howe Jr.

The 2014 political year in Lowell started with the shocking announcement by City Manager Bernie Lynch that he would resign his office on March 10, 2014.  The city council will now begin the task of selecting his replacement.  Although the City Manager’s resignation occurred in 2014, it was events in 2013 that laid the groundwork for his departure so let us now review some of the important political events in Lowell from the past year.

Lowell City Council 2014-2015
Bill Martin, Jim Milinazzo, Bill Samaras, Corey Belanger, Danny Rourke,
Rita Mercier, Rodney Elliott, John Leahy, Ed Kennedy

In November, four new city councilors were elected.  They are Dan Rourke, Jim Milinazzo, Bill Samaras and Corey Belanger. Those who are leaving the council are Mayor Patrick Murphy who did not seek reelection and Marty Lorrey, Vesna Nuon and Joe Mendonca who all failed to win reelection. Returning to the council will be Rita Mercier, Rodney Elliott, Ed Kennedy, Bill Martin and John Leahy.  (At the January 6, 2014 Inauguration Ceremony, the new council selected Rodney Elliott to be Mayor for the next two years).

A big issue in the city council election and throughout the community was violence and public safety.   The police assured residents that statistically there was less crime in 2013 than there was in 2012, many residents felt differently.   Much of the violence involved shootings in the lower Highlands and Centralville but downtown also became the focus of the public safety debate as the city searched for ways to hold downtown bars accountable for the behavior of unruly customers.

Steve Gendron, Lowell School Committee

There were also leadership changes for the Lowell Public Schools.  Steve Gendron, who served on the city council in the 1990s and on the planning board for the past few years, decided to run for school committee and won a seat. With just seven candidates for six seats there was only one who lost.  That was Robert Gignac who had just finished his first term on the school committee.  In other school news, Brian Martin, former city councilor, mayor, city manager, and Congressional district director, was hired as the new Lowell High School headmaster.

There were other personal changes in the city and in nearby communities.  Chief Financial Officer Tom Moses recently left Lowell when he was hired to be town manager in Hudson. He has not yet been replaced. Ken Lavallee retired as superintendent of police in March. He was immediately replaced on an interim basis by Deputy Superintendent Deborah Freidl and in November, the city manager choose veteran captain Bill Taylor to be the new superintendent.

Ed Markey at Pailin City, June 2013

The November city council election was not the only big election in 2013.  In June, there was a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated when John Kerry (who once lived in Lowell) was named Secretary of State.  That election was won by longtime Democratic Congressman Ed Markey who defeated Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez statewide and also in Lowell, 58% to 42%.

Perhaps the best new in 2013 was the continued growth of UMass Lowell was a big story in 2013.  There are new buildings such as the Health and Social Science Building and the new parking garage on South Campus and the University Crossing student center at Pawtucket and Merrimack Streets is going up quickly.  UMass also received much national attention for the improving quality of its faculty and students which benefits the entire community.

This article appears in the January 10th edition of KhmerPostUSA