NEWBURYPORT — Voters here opted for incumbents yesterday, returning all city councilors who were running to seats and adding newcomers Sharif Zeid in Ward 1 and Joe Devlin to an at-large seat on the 11-member council.
Zeid defeated Ted Waldron 465-291, and Ward 4 councilor Charlie Tontar defeated challenger Sean McDonald 441-235
Incumbents winning the at-large races, in which nine were running for five seats, included Ed Cameron, Bruce Vogel and Barry Connell. Greg Earls, a long-time councilor from Ward 2 who ran for mayor two years ago, was also returned to the council as an at-large member.
Incumbents winning in the uncontested ward races included Ward 2, Jared Eigerman (445); Ward 3, Robert Cronin (412); Ward 5, Larry Giunta (376) and Ward 6, Council President Tom O’Brien (392).
Cameron, who topped the field with 2,129 votes, will be serving his fifth term. He said, “The big issue for the new council will be dealing with the downtown, with the proposed parking garage and plans by New England Development.”
Earls had 1,834 votes. He said, “It will be good to be in a position to serve the city again.”
Vogel, with 1,794, will enter his fourth term — though not consecutive. He said, “We all have to work together, take a look at the issues in a community and come up with good solutions.”
Connell, who had 1,753 votes and will be serving his seventh term, said, “The council will be looking at the plans of New England Development on the waterfront. It’s time to fish or cut bait; with a robust economy and low interest rates, this is a time when things can happen.”
Devlin, who had 1,872, said that he wants to reach out to improve communication among all sectors of the community.
Devlin’s campaign team said that his strength started with voters with young families — he and his wife have three children under the age of 10. He and family members expanded on that sector to earn a substantial number of votes.
Candidates agree that sunny weather in the 60s was a pleasant addition to the final day of vote-getting.
“I was out early ready for the cold,” said Rob Germinara, an at-large candidate for City Council who won 709 votes. “But mid-afternoon we were getting sunburn.
“I’m pleased with my campaign, and I think I did well in the forums. I know a lot of people, and was able to greet many today as I was holding my signs.”
Devlin said, “One of the key issues is communication, and it’s up to the City Council to keep residents aware of what is happening, and responding to their needs.
“In this campaign, I was pleased that the forums provided discussion and were not combative. This is a small community, and we want to get along. I think we did that.”
Charles Tontar, an incumbent running from Ward 4, said, “One of the biggest issues for people in my ward was fill-in building. People are concerned about expansion in neighborhoods, which is happening because Newburyport is a very desirable community now.”
Sean McDonald, also running from Ward 4, said streets and sidewalks were on the minds of voters.
Several candidates said that the recent 40R “smart growth” rezoning measure was not often mentioned by voters.
Some voters at the polls yesterday, however, said they turned out to vote for those who shared their views on important local issues — including the smart growth initiative.
Andy Morris of Ward 3 said he and others were very disappointed the City Council passed the 40R zoning issue last month, prompting him to vote for Lanphear, Mullins, Devlin, Earls and Germinara, all those not currently on the council.
Morris added that he felt incumbents were too eager to support Mayor Donna Holaday’s policies and that the council needed members who would stand up to her.
Bruce Skud of Ward 3 and a No More Fukishimas co-founder only voted for three at-large candidates, Earls, Cameron and Connell. Cameron and Connell were among four city councilors who called for the closing of the Seabrook Station nuclear reactor.
“They stand up for public safety. I’m very proud to vote for them,” Skud said.
Ward 2 resident Andy Simpson voted for Connell, Cameron, Vogel and Earls, only four at-large candidates, when he could have voted for five.
“I didn’t feel any of them captured my interest,” Simpson said.
Though three-term councilor Ari Herzog is not running for re-election, the online-oriented at-large representative offered himself as a write-in candidate on his blog.
He wrote, “I’m filling in four ovals (sorry, I won’t share who) and for number five, I’m writing in my own name. Sadly, none of the other candidates meet my high standards to represent me.
“If you feel inspired to also write in my name, that could make an intriguing message when the poll results are read. I really wish it wasn’t this way but it is what it is.”
City officials had not totaled the number of write-in ballots at press time.