By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Preserving an open waterfront and fulfilling one’s civic duty were among the reasons Newburyporters gave yesterday for casting a vote for either Mayor Donna Holaday or her opponent, City Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr.
For many, keeping waterfront land owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority clear of development has become the only topic that matters. Throughout his mayoral campaign, Sullivan made it clear that he didn’t support any development of NRA-owned land and even declared that the NRA should disband.
Holaday has been accused of flip-flopping on the topic. When running for mayor more than four years ago, Holaday campaigned for an open waterfront. Recently, Holaday acknowledged her position had evolved since then, drawing the ire of many. In September, an anonymous mailer sent to residents across the city blasted Holaday for her waterfront stance and asked residents to vote for Sullivan.
By the end of the work day, poll workers at Hope Community Church off Hale Street were continuously busy as a steady stream of voters filed into the polling area. Around 5 p.m., the parking lot was almost full and dozens of people, including City Council candidates Robert Cronin and Barry Connell, lined the church entrance waving and holding signs. The church served as the polling place for wards 3 and 4.
Emily Fay said she came to the polls to support a particular candidate while Sheila Taintor said that the great number of contested races spurred her to make the trip. Both women declined to say who they voted for.
A Merrill Street resident, who declined to give his name, said he voted for Sullivan because he promised to keep the waterfront open.
“And that’s very important to the town,” the Merrill Street voter said.
Tim Quill, who also declined to say who he voted for, said he came to the polls because he had been doing so every election for decades.
“I was taught to vote, so I’ve voted since I was 18, a long time,” Quill said.
Hours earlier at Brown Elementary School, situated in Ward 2, turnout was far more modest. Lunchtime saw only a small trickle of people enter the school to vote. When voters came, it was generally one at a time. Although one voter said he had to wait in line — a first for him after many elections.
Some visiting the school said they stopped by because voting was the right thing to do.
“We always vote,” Gillian Chatfield said, leaving the voting station at the school shortly before noon. Both Chatfield and her husband, David, voted for Holaday.
Jack Welch, a Newburyport native, said regardless of who is on the ballot, it was important to vote.
“It’s a good habit to get into,” Welch said, adding he voted for Sullivan.
Brian Hromadka, who declined to say who he voted for, echoed Welch’s sentiment.
“I’m generally supporting the city, making sure the right people are in office,” he said.