NEWBURYPORT — The applause grew louder with each vote count that was called into David's Tavern last night.
As the final ward was announced and written on a sheet hanging on the wall, a beaming Donna Holaday stood in the middle of the room hugging some supporters, jumping up and down with others, and listening to the cheers.
"Mayor Holaday's line," campaign volunteers began answering the cell phone. "She won!"
Holaday, 54, a councilor-at-large and the director of grant development and management at Middlesex Community College, was elected the city's next mayor yesterday with a 2,704-2,257 win over City Council President James Shanley, or a 55 percent to 45 percent win.
Holaday won in five of the six wards in the city. The only ward she did not take was Ward 3, where Shanley lives.
Holaday was first elected to the City Council in 2003. She ran unsuccessfully against John Moak in 2005. She has served as the council's Budget and Finance Committee chairwoman.
Shanley, 55, is the co-owner and operator of B Designs, a greeting card design and printing company in Amesbury. He first joined the City Council six years ago and has served two terms as the president.
"I'm emotional; I'm thrilled," Holaday said, surrounded by well-wishers and a crowd of citizens waiting to speak to her. "I'm so grateful to the voters who have given me their support."
"James ran a very good campaign," she said of her opponent. "There was no question we had an uphill battle. He had the momentum early on."
At the River Merrimac Grille, Shanley's supporters let out gasps as the numbers were totalled.
"Every candidate needs to have two speeches ready," Shanley said as the final numbers were tallied and his mayoral ambitions had slipped away.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Shanley said. "I honestly believe we all were working to make Newburyport a better place, and that is what counts."
Prior to the numbers coming in, Shanley noted he had made friends during the campaign whom he believes he will have for life and said he enjoyed the experience of campaigning in the city he loves.
"I will help Donna any way I can," Shanley said. "I urge you all to pitch in and help Donna be the mayor of Newburyport and make Newburyport a better place."
Holaday said she learned a lot from her first campaign for mayor and credited the changes she made with making the difference.
"I had absolute control over everything," she said. "I had a very small team of people."
Leading her fourth campaign, she had name recognition and knew what to do, she said.
"It was the time in the wards, the time talking to people," she said. "I think that really made the difference. I knocked on every door and talked to every person that was available."
She pointed to the Wards 5 and 6 results — the city's more conservative wards.
"I knew what I had to do," Holaday said. "Those are the wards that will make or break you."
Holaday received 406 votes in Ward 5 and 430 votes in Ward 6, to Shanley's 289 and 349, respectively. In her home ward, Ward 2, she won 459 votes to Shanley's 310. Shanley also won his home ward, Ward 3, earning 463 votes to Holaday's 384. That was the sole ward he won.
Shortly after 8:30 p.m., Shanley arrived at David's Tavern to congratulate Holaday.
"Nice win," he said, walking up to her in the middle of the room, and the two hugged.
"Good job to all of you," he said, pointing out to Holaday's campaign volunteers. "Great campaign. We've got a great mayor here. Have a great party. Congratulations."
In exit polls conducted by The Daily News, Ward 1 voter Marilyn Harris said she shares Holaday's view for the waterfront, as she left the polls at the People's United Methodist Church yesterday.
"I don't want to see buildings there blocking the views," she said. "I want to see park."
Steve Bradberry said he also supported Holaday, as he left the People's United Methodist Church,
"She's a good lady, a family lady," he said.
"Let's put it this way, I voted for the person who best represents the people's interests," said Laura Allgrove. "I think Donna Holaday does a great job at doing that. She's well thought out when she speaks."
Holaday will take office in January, replacing Mayor John Moak, who decided not to seek a third term. In the meantime, she said she plans to meet with Moak to begin the transition.
The mayor's term is two years. Holaday will earn a salary of $65,000, a $60,000 base salary with $5,000 travel and expense stipends.
Staff Writers Danielle Rines and Katie Curley-Katzman contributed to this report.