NEWBURYPORT — The City Council will vote on Monday to select a placeholder from a field that includes two former councilors to temporarily fill a vacant at-large seat previously held by Gregory Earls.
Earls served on the council for 16 years before stepping down last month because he is moving to North Hampton, New Hampshire. His term ends Dec. 31, and will be filled by one of five candidates who submitted letters of interest and resumes to the full council.
The candidates for the temporary position are: Edward C. Cameron, Robert Cronin, Robert J. Germinara, Hazem H. Mahmoud, James J. McCauley and Thomas L. Salemi.
Votes from six members would be needed for appointment. Monday’s City Council meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 60 Pleasant St.
Cameron served on the City Council for 10 years, but stepped down in 2017 only to re-enter City Hall as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, on which he still serves. On Friday, he said he hopes to bring his previous council experience and knowledge of ongoing city business to help keep things moving in Council Chambers.
“I thought it would be good to have someone there who has had experience on the council so they would be up to speed and able to contribute right off the bat,” said Cameron. “They’ve got a few big issues in front of them over the next few months, the biggest being Waterfront West. I was involved with that in the past.”
Cronin served as Ward 3 councilor for eight years and gave up his seat to run for mayor in the 2017 municipal election, in which he lost to incumbent Mayor Donna Holaday. Cronin said that while he chose not to seek a permanent seat on the council this year, he wanted to rejoin the council for a brief period to help it move forward while the election plays out.
“It would be nice to go out and finish my public service on more acceptable terms rather than just walking out after losing a battle,” said Cronin. “I have no thought of returning in a larger capacity.”
Germinara has spent years regularly attending meetings for various city departments and is vying for one of five full-time councilor at-large seats in the November election. He also ran for an at-large seat in the 2017 municipal election.
When asked for his reasons for running, Germinara highlighted his participation in city business over the last several years, and said the short stint in Earls’ former seat would give voters a trial period to see how he would fare as a full-time councilor at-large.
“I’m heavily invested in the city as a native son and am especially concerned about the future,” said Germinara. “Why not test the waters with a guy like me for four months and see how I do... I deserve a shot. If you don’t like me, don’t vote me in (in November). I think I’m the logical choice so the citizens can see how I do on the council.”
Mahmoud ran for mayor in 2017 but finished third in the final vote. Since the loss, Mahmoud said he has been unhappy with city government decisions, including budget issues and the use of the parking garage as a replacement for parking along the waterfront.
“I want to serve the city just as I wanted to when I ran for mayor,” said Mahmoud. “We were promised transparency and there’s no transparency.”
McCauley, a 26-year city resident with a self-described longstanding interest in politics, is running unopposed in November for the Ward 5 councilor seat currently held by Larry Giunta. On Friday, McCauley said he hoped filling Earls’ shoes for the rest of the year would give him an early start on council business.
“I opted to put my name in with the idea that I could start doing the groundwork for some of the issues we’re going to be dealing with in 2020,” said McCauley. “There’s a range of issues, and they’re all important to the city. Taking the first steps, if they’re done correctly, helps frame the discussion.”
Salemi served on the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority from 2012 to 2017, and as its chair from 2014 to 2017. On Friday, Salemi said he put his name into the mix for Earls’ seat because he wanted to get involved with ongoing city issues, primarily the future of Waterfront West.
“I wanted to make sure there was a full council on board that could complete the picture of what’s going to be on the waterfront,” said Salemi. “I felt that if there’s an opportunity to get involved, you have a responsibility to help out.”
To view the full agenda for Monday’s City Council meeting, visit https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/agendas/cc_agenda_09-09-2019.pdf
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.