By Tom Duggan – July, 2013
Always outspoken and often controversial, the West District Councilor has had her share of political scuffles over the last six years, but even those who had an adversarial relationship with Pappalardo say they respect her even though they were on opposite sides of most political battles.
“Jeanne Pappalardo is a strong advocate for her constituents, and for taxpayers,” Former Mayor Bill Manzi told The Valley Patriot. “Although we did not always agree, we talked a lot more than people thought, and managed to find areas of agreement to allow important projects to move forward, like the Methuen High School renovation and expansion. She did her homework, and when I had to answer her questions I knew I had better have done mine,” Manzi chuckled. The former mayor has long been considered Pappalardo’s biggest adversary.
“As far as the high school is concerned,” Pappalardo told The Valley Patriot with no prompting, “I am pleased to see how on-track the whole project has been. Let’s put all the cards on table. Manzi and I never got along politically. We had many battles over the years, but I can tell you it was Bill Manzi who started this high school renovation project and got it off the ground. He will probably fall over dead when he reads this, but if not for Mayor Bill Manzi, the kids of Methuen wouldn’t have gotten a renovated high school. It was Bill who pushed it at the state level and got the project approved through the State’s School Building Authority for us.”
“Mayor Zanni has carried the ball forward since, and has kept the high school on track since Mayor Manzi left. He too he deserves credit for that, but it was Bill Manzi who really showed good leadership on this issue and I am happy to say I never thought the project had a chance. Bill got it done.”
Before being termed out as Mayor of Methuen two years ago, Manzi and Pappalardo were almost never on the same side of a political issue, and the conflict between the two nearly defined both official’s careers. Manzi recently was hired as town manager of Seabrook, New Hampshire.
“Is there any truth to the rumor that she is moving to Seabrook?” Manzi asked chuckling.
“Honestly, I wish her well, and she can be proud of the many accomplishments that occurred during her tenure as West District Councilor, Manzi said.
“You knew what you got with Councilor Pappalardo,” East End Councilor Tom Ciulla agreed.
“She was never a flip flopper like some people we know on that council. She said what she meant and she meant what she said, and when she made a commitment she always stuck to her guns when voting. Jeanne attended every meeting, every event in the community, and what I admire about Jeanne is that she always had passion for her constituents. When an important issue came up, Jeanne Pappalardo always asked the tough questions and protected the taxpayer from overspending of their tax dollars. I think that’s why the people in her district love her so much. She took a lot of votes alone, but she never voted to raise taxes and I think the people of this city, not just her district, appreciate and recognize that.”
GUTSY AND CONTROVERSIAL, THE VOTERS LOVE HER
Jearnne Pappalardo topped the ticket every year she ran, gaining more votes in each successive election. “My husband is a former councilor and even he couldn’t believe I got more votes in third election than the second election. People say you normally lose a couple of hundred votes between the second and third term but I got more every time I ran. ”
Asked what her proudest accomplishments were in the last six years, Pappalardo said that veterans, safety and constituent services were at the top of the list.
“I have really enjoyed doing what I have done as a councilor. My main purpose for running was to be there for the people. I really enjoy helping them and I think people appreciate having a councilor they can reach out to who will answer their questions and concerns,” Pappalardo told The Valley Patriot.
“I came in with a good name and I am going out with a good name, I am proud of that.”
“The other thing I will say I am proud of is that I have no relatives working for city. Nobody is collecting money from the city that I am connected to. I never have and would never want that. That’s something I admire about Mayor Zanni. Nobody in his family is working for the city. Nobody can question his decisions as self-interest. That’s really, really important I feel for any elected official.
SAFETY CHECKS AND HELPING VETERANS
“My fist year elected, I think I was in the 2nd month of my term, I brought forth legislation in response to that incident where the child was killed by a falling gate in one of the schools. My legislation was to make sure that never happens again. It was something I promised during my first campaign, and it was one of the first things I did when I took office.”
The ordinance Pappalardo championed that year mandated that the city send out inspectors once a year to check all city owned buildings, including schools, fences, gates, and parks to make safety checks inside and outside.
“That was tragic, it touched my heart and made me realize there is always something more we can do to keep people safe in our community, especially the kids.” The safety measure Pappalardo championed was approved unanimously.
Another accomplishment Pappalardo says she is proud of was the installation of the Wall of Honor in Methuen City Hall. “It’s right there as soon as you walk into City Hall,” she says beaming.
“Anyone from Methuen who has a family member who died in a war or a conflict in service of this country, can bring their loved ones picture and hang it on our wall of honor.”
Pappalardo says she worked closely with then mayor Bill Manzi to bring that item forward too.
“When the Wall of Honor was put up it was very touching, I was honored to be able to do that for the family members of our soldiers. And again I worked with Bill Manzi to get that done.”
Besides the Wall of Honor in City Hall, Pappalardo also championed a city ordinance which gave preference to all veterans applying for city jobs.
“Any city department like the DPW as one example, if they hire anyone, they have to give preference to veterans as long as they are qualified for the job.” The city already gives preference to veterans for police and fire applicants but Pappalardo said all city jobs should follow that formula, and her measure passed unanimously.
“The thing I enjoy most about this job is the people I get to help. It’s really a privilege to be able to sit down with people, listen to their issues or their problems and then go out and help them get it taken care of. When someone calls me I get the greatest satisfaction being able to call someone back and tell them their problem is resolved, that’s the best part of this job and what I am going to miss the most.”
SOME DISSAPPOINTMENTS – TAXES AND PRIVITIZATION
“I was never a proponent of raising taxes in the city. I know sometimes that’s not possible, but there are a lot of things left on the table that could have been cut in the last six years. In a bad economy, we have a lot of people who have lost their homes due to job loss. People are having a really tough time, whether you believe it or not. I don’t believe the economy has come back at all. I don’t see it. Every day there are a few more foreclosures in Methuen.”
“In the last election Ron Marsan, myself and Pat Uliano pledged not to raise taxes, and I have kept my word. I did not vote for one budget that increased taxes. When employee contracts came before us a few months ago, I think it was about 8 or so contracts, the laborers, the DPW, etc., … myself and Ron Marsan were the only ones who voted against those contracts. The cops got 11% raise, the fire department got a 10% raise and I voted against all of them because there isn’t enough money and I don’t want to raise taxes. Our taxes are going up this year because of that spending. It’s tough because you have to support public safety, but you also have to live within your means and I don’t think the contracts that were passed do that.”
Pappalardo has been on the losing end of a lot of votes on the city council, something she said she also finds disappointing.
“I am very disappointed in what just took place in the last year since January. I am very disappointed we didn’t privatize the IT (Internet and Technology) Department. There were so many obstacles put in our way, we could have saved a lot of dollars long term. Mayor Zanni was 100% on the money when he tried to privatize. There were so many obstacles he had to face.”
“We wouldn’t have to pay sick time, vacation time, health insurance, etc. Every other city has to tighten their belts because the economy in the whole country is horrible. It’s never going to be where it was five years ago and people have to understand that when times get worse, all this spending we do now will cripple us down the road because I don’t see a great recovery for this economy. Things are not going to get better financially, they are going to get worse, and this country is in real trouble. We need to remember that when we are in charge of spending other people’s money.”
“I’m all for smaller government, whether it is city or state, right up the White House. We need small government, but nobody seems to want to tighten their belt and make a sacrifice. Everyone is out to get the vote by spending tax money on programs for this group and that group. But, I went door to door in every election and people kept telling me over and over that we need to cut taxes. We need to stop spending. I agree with them. I tried for six years but you need five votes to win, and I didn’t have the five votes. I tried my best and in the last three elections it showed in the votes I got that people want lower taxes. I am just disappointed I didn’t have much help from the other councilors.”
Pappalardo says she is taking at least two years off to relax and travel.
“If in fact, I decide to come back, that’s a few years away. So, when the time comes I will make that decision. I never say never, but it’s not my intention right now. Right now, my husband and my dog, Samuel, are looking forward to spending more time with me, and that’s something I am looking forward to as well.”