After a few years of off-and-on research, I finally finished a list of all the aldermen, City Council and School Committee members who have served Newburyport since it became a city in 1851.
From 1851 until 1919, there was a six-person Board of Aldermen, one elected for each ward; and in 1900, an alderman at large was added, that being elected city-wide. There was also a Common Council consisting of 18 members, three being elected from each ward.
The School Committee had 12 members, two elected to represent each ward. Elections were held annually.
Beginning in 1920 the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council were abolished and a City Council was established, six ward councilors and five at-large councilors, same as today. The School Committee was reduced from 12 members to six members, each elected city-wide instead of by ward. The mayor is also a member of the committee.
Obviously over these 160 years, several hundred men and women have been selected by the voters to fill these positions.
However, it is hard to imagine in this day and age that anyone will ever match the longevity and dedication of two highly respected gentlemen whose presence in elected office played leading roles in steering the direction of the city and its school system for a good part of the last century.
Edward G. Perkins served the city for 42 years. He represented Ward 1 in the Common Council in 1910 and 1911, he was that ward’s alderman in 1912 and 1913. He then was the city’s alderman at-large from 1915 through 1918. Then he served as a councilor at-large for 34 straight years, 1920 through 1953. Mr. Perkins was president of the City Council for 15 years and president of the Board of Aldermen once. No one has served in the council longer than Mr. Perkins. He missed two council meetings in his 42 years of service. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1919.
Perkins Playground on Beacon Avenue was named for him by the city council in April of 1945. Edward G. Perkins died in May of 1955 at the age of 80.
Bradley Fuller served the city as a member of the School Committee for 46 years. First elected in 1939, he served nine years until 1947. He then served from 1952 until his death in April of 1989 at the age of 84. Mr. Fuller was vice chairman of the committee in 1943 and then from 1945 through 1948. He then was elected vice chairman of the committee every year from 1954 until April 1989. He also served as Newburyport’s first representative to the Whittier School Committee and held that position for several years.
Mr. Fuller, like Mr. Perkins, seldom missed a committee meeting. He was also known for his faithful attendance at athletic events, shows, musicals and academic awards ceremonies involving the schools’ children.
Mr. Fuller was a graduate of Dartmouth College and worked at the United Shoe in Beverly as an engineer. The outdoor athletic complex on Low Street is named in his honor. No one has served the city as an elected official for a longer period than Bradley Fuller.
Don’t look for those two men’s accomplishments to be surpassed any time soon.
Joe Callahan is a former fire chief of Salisbury who is interested in historical accounts of the area.