NEWBURYPORT — After being voted in as the new City Council president on Monday, Ward 2 Councilor Jared Eigerman said he looks forward to taking on a new leadership role and dealing with some of the city's pressing issues.
Eigerman, who is beginning his fourth two-year term on the council, was elected president after the inauguration of councilors. He received a majority of six votes, edging out the previous president, Councilor at-large Barry Connell, who received five votes.
When asked about his reasons for running for council president, Eigerman assured that he and Connell are "friends and colleagues." Eigerman said he simply "wanted a turn" at being president.
For several years, Eigerman has been a prominent voice during debates at council meetings. On Tuesday, he acknowledged that as council president he will take on a much more "noncombatant" role given that the president typically does not participate actively in debates and presides over meetings.
"For the past five years, I've been an active debater and that's not the role of the president," he said. "The president still votes, and I will be representing my ward zealously, but my job is to run the meetings and rule on procedures."
Eigerman said a top priority will be the review of the city's charter, which is conducted every five years by an appointed charter commission.
"I'm eager to see what the charter commission's recommendations are, and they're due in late spring," Eigerman said, also noting that a comprehensive rewrite of the city's zoning ordinance is expected to come before the City Council for review this year.
Eigerman pointed toward some "loose ends" he hopes to focus on, including the future of the former Brown School building in the South End.
The school closed in 2014 and has since housed Newburyport Youth Services on the first floor. In recent years, city officials have worked toward using the building for affordable housing. Last year, an overlay district was approved by the council, leaving multiple options open for the site's future.
"We now have zoning in place for the Brown School, and we'd like to issue a RFP (request for proposals)," Eigerman said. "That school has been closed for many years now, and I'd like to get the upper stories back into use."
In regard to Waterfront West, a large, multiuse project planned by New England Development for the city's waterfront, Eigerman said he is uncertain about the city's next steps but expects the council to be proactive in working with the developer.
"I'm not quite sure where we'll go from here," Eigerman said. "I don't have the answer."
Though Eigerman said he suspects Ward 3 Councilor Heather Shand has "some ideas."
Noting his family's ties to the city, Eigerman said he is glad to take on his new leadership role with the council.
"I do take a lot of pride in my connection to Newburyport; my parents moved here in 1968 when the city was on the cusp of changing," Eigerman said. "I am proud to serve this city and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.