Salisbury Manager Running for Salem Mayor – Again

Tuesday December 20, 2022

Neil Harrington

REGIONAL — Since it became obvious that Kim Driscoll would be the Commonwealth’s next lieutenant governor, the people of Salem, where she has served as mayor for 17 years, “are understandably anxious,” said Salem resident Neil Harrington.
The loss of Driscoll, the city’s second longest serving mayor, “will create a significant leadership vacuum in the city,” Harrington said last week.
“The uncertainty in the city is palpable,” Harrington said. “Are we going backwards or forwards? People are understandably worried.”
The next mayor will be chosen by a special election, which will not be set by the city clerk until after Driscoll delivers her last State of the City address on Jan. 4. She and Gov.-elect Maura Healy will be sworn into the next day.
The new mayor will take office the day after the election, probably in late April or May, just in time to finalize the city’s annual budget, and serve out Driscoll’s fifth term, which ends on Jan. 5, 2026 — the year of Salem’s 400th anniversary.
“It is imperative that the city elect someone who has experience,” Harrington said.
Over the last few weeks, Harrington said he has looked for someone with hands-on experience in city government to support. “But I didn’t find anyone that has the skill set,” he said.
After being encouraged by other residents, Harrington decided to run himself. “I have a strong emotional pull toward Salem,” he said.
Harrington, who for almost 20 years has been the Salisbury town manager, is a “lifelong resident” of Salem and served as its mayor for four terms between 1990 to 1997.
Running for mayor of Salem “is definitely not a career move,” he said.
Only one other candidate, Driscoll’s chief of staff Dominick Pangallo, has said he plans to run.
None of the 11-member city council plan to run, so far. This is an unusual election, Harrington said. The city has not had a vacancy as mayor for 50 years.
One councilmember will be chosen to serve as interim mayor. In the past, when the mayor’s term was only two years, the acting mayor served until the next election. But now, the mayor is elected to a four-year term, so a special election is required.
The issues facing a city or a town are much the same, Harrington said. “It is a matter of scale.”
The next mayor will face issues with traffic, affordable housing and the schools, he said. There is also the perennial issue of coping with the ever-expanding festivities in October, surrounding Halloween. The events, which are starting earlier in October and lasting well in November, “are tough on the residents,” he said.
Harrington, whose signature accomplishment as Salem mayor was keeping the Peabody Essex Museum from moving to Boston, said the city has changed over the past 20-plus years since he was mayor.
“I’ve kept up with all the issues of interest in the community,” he said, “I have a good finger on the pulse of what’s happening, I have ideas as to what needs to happen, and I just don’t think the city can afford to go backwards in terms of its agenda for progress.”
Salem is “a fascinating city,” he said. It is seeing a major shift in demographics. Twenty different languages are now spoken in the schools, he said.
If elected, Harrington would be leaving Salisbury in good shape. Several major projects, including the Lafayette Road new sewer and the beach visitors center, are nearing completion. In his two decades, the town has seen a lot of improvements, including the construction of many new homes and the new police station.
“The Board of Selectmen and I are on the same page,” he said. As long as he gets the town manager’s projects done, the board is fine with me campaigning for mayor. He plans to work longer and later hours.
“They understand opportunities come along,” he said.

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