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January 17, 2014

Council's new leaders strike moderate tone

AMESBURY — While little is certain about how the new City Council will function going forward, one thing everyone agrees on is that things will be different.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any kind of strong majority on any issues as we go forward,” said new council President Joe McMilleon. “It’s going to be an interesting legislative experience since we have such a diverse group of people.”

The new council consists of veteran councilors Anne Ferguson, Jim Kelcourse, Bob Lavoie, Donna McClure and McMilleon, returning Councilor Jonathan Sherwood, who is back on the council after a four-year absence, and newcomers Paul Sickorez and Dave Moavenzadeh. The District 2 seat is currently vacant.

While the last City Council — and the two preceding it — were largely comprised of like-minded officials, the new council includes two distinct groups who are strong supporters of the divergent philosophies championed by former Mayor Thatcher Kezer and newly elected Mayor Ken Gray respectively.

Recognizing this divide, the council wound up turning to its two more moderate members for leadership, voting unanimously to elect McMilleon as the next council president and Kelcourse as vice president at last week’s organizational meeting.

“There are three sorts of groupings of councilors: There’s Jonathan Sherwood, Anne Ferguson and myself, and then Donna McClure was able to interest Paul [Sickorez] and David [Moavenzadeh] to run for office, and then Joe [McMilleon] and Jim [Kelcourse] are in the middle,” Lavoie said. “That’s probably why they’re serving as president and vice president, because everyone has confidence in their ability to work with everybody.”

Though McMilleon and Kelcourse were elected unanimously and without any substantial discussion at the Jan. 7 organizational meeting, Lavoie acknowledged that conversations among the councilors do take place to help form a consensus, emphasizing that all discussions adhere to Open Meeting Laws.

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