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Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan is currently the favorite to lead the City Council as its president in January.
Sullivan, second highest vote getter with an unofficial 6,418 votes recorded last week, received the endorsement Monday of current Council Vice President John A. Michitson, who topped the count with 6,508 votes last Tuesday.
“I’m honored and humbled to have John Michitson’s support for the presidency. I understand that it is a tremendous responsibility that I look forward to doing. I hope to earn the support of my fellow councilors and will be speaking to each one of them in the every near future to ask for their support,” Sullivan told WHAV.
Michitson told WHAV Monday he thanks residents for the honor of giving him the most votes. He explained, however, he will not accept the top job this time around because it would be a “huge distraction from working on two major projects for next year.”
He explained one project is “Creating upward mobility opportunities for Haverhill students and citizens through economic development starting with attracting and retaining advanced manufacturing, life sciences/biotech and climate technology jobs for Haverhill, and workforce development and training opportunities for all with equity.”
“The second major project will be working on a long-range plan for the city’s infrastructure and services, including a long-term financial plan for the city, with Mayor-elect Melinda Barrett, City Council colleagues and School Committee members, department heads and subject matter experts,” Michitson said.
While it is a tradition of the City Council to elect the highest vote getter as president, it is not a rule and there have been exceptions during the more than 50 years of the current form of government. In the past, for example, first-time councilors waited a year to accept the presidency while learning the role. More recently, councilors in 2020 chose not to elect top vote-getter Joseph J. Bevilacqua as president.
Councilors contacted by WHAV also appear mindful the city’s new, mostly ward-based system ensures the seven ward councilors are unlikely to reach the vote totals of the four elected at-large. Sullivan agreed the issue merits further discussion, but in the interim, he said, the legislative body requires a senior leader willing to take the job.
The establishment of ward councilors, however, means the body must adopt some new traditions, such as the order of seating and roll call votes. Traditionally, the Council president took the center seat and all others were seated left to right in order of vote totals. Physically, seating in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers will be arranged to add a member to the left and right of the president to accommodate the change from nine to 11 members.
Besides Michitson and Sullivan, at-large councilors elected last week were current President Timothy J. Jordan and former Councilor Colin F. LePage. Ward councilors elected were Ralph T. Basiliere, Ward 1; Katrina Hobbs-Everett, Ward 2; Devan M. Ferreira, Ward 3; Melissa J. Lewandowski, Ward 4; Shaun P. Toohey, Ward 5; Michael S. McGonagle, Ward 6; and Catherine P. Rogers, Ward 7.