By the time you read this article, the election in Newburyport will be over. It will have marked the first major change in the format of the city government since 1920. This change, of course, will be the first four-year term of office for the position of mayor rather than the two-year term used for 93 years.
Prior to 1920 all elected terms were for one year. Besides the mayor, there was a seven-member Board of Alderman, one at-large and one from each ward. There was also an 18-member Common Council, three from each ward. Two members of the 12-member School Committee were elected from each ward.
Just think of how many signs would line the streets if that format were still in use today.
I have compiled a few statistics about the mayors and council members since 1920.
First, anyone having aspirations of becoming mayor would be smart to first become a member of the council.
Records show that about 75 percent of the mayors served in the council first.
Seventeen men and four women have served the longest, six terms. Prior to serving as mayor, eight served as councilor at-large: Gayden Morrill, George H. Lawler Jr., Edward G. Molin, Lisa L. Mead, Christopher R. Sullivan, Mary Carrier, Alan Lavender and Donna D. Holaday.
Another three served as ward councilors: John M. Kelleher, Ward 6; Albert Zabriskie and Byron Matthews, Ward 5. Richard E. Sullivan, Ward 4 and Peter J. Mathhews, Ward 1, served as both ward and councilors at-large. Three served in the pre-1920 form of government; David Page served as an alderman and Oscar Nelson and James Carens Jr. both served on the Common Council.
Five mayors never served on the City Council: Michael Cashman, Andrew “Bossy” Gillis, Henry Graf Jr., Mary Anne Clancy and John Moak.
George H. Lawler Jr. and Edward G. Molin served as councilor at-large before and after serving as mayor and Mr. Molin was elected to the School Committee after his mayoral stint. Mary Clancy served eight years as a member of the School Committee before being elected mayor.