Barrett Recognizes Storied Role of Women in Haverhill Politics as She is Elected Council President

Haverhill City Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Vice President Colin F. LePage. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett became the first woman elected president of that body during Monday’s inaugural ceremonies.

Barrett remembered the women that came before her, including her colleague Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien, who is the longest-serving woman to ever serve on the City Council. Before her, Barrett noted, were late City Councilors Theresa Baumann, Marjorie E. Goudreault and Betsy A. Conte. Barrett singled out Bauman, who is the aunt of outgoing Council President John A. Michitson.

“A veteran of World War II and a Purple Heart recipient, she was the first female to serve on the Council and was successfully elected five times. She served as the first female vice president of the Council and was the first woman to run for mayor in Haverhill,” she said.

The expected elevation of Barrett to City Council president did not come without an objection from the top vote recipient in last fall’s elections, Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

“Madam clerk, I respectfully suggest that I am unable to support that motion—not because of the individual, but because every city councilor sitting on this stage today, when they voted in the past for the Council president, voted to elect as Council president the vote recipient as selected by the voters of the City of Haverhill,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua nominated himself, but his colleagues voted 8-1 to elect Barrett, who was nominated by O’Brien. Bevilacqua went on to support his colleagues who voted unanimously to name Councilor Colin F. LePage as vice president.

While the city has made progress, Barrett said, a new decade means new issues to address. “In order to continue our improvements, we must acknowledge the existence of issues with public safety, infrastructure maintenance and the need for a stronger educational system and a focus on economic development.”

Specifically, Barrett pointed to downtown parking, adopting a new master plan to make changes in the city’s industrial parks, building new schools and replacing a fire station.

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