The Valley Patriot caught up with Methuen Mayor-elect Neil Perry on election night to talk about his thoughts on the election and how he is going to move Methuen forward after a very negative and bizarre campaign that brought out nearly 50% of the Methuen voters.
“I want to say thank you to the residents of Methuen for the overwhelming support, for a positive message, and positive campaign. With all that was going on especially in the last couple of weeks, all the mud that was slung, I think the voters of Methuen spoke loud and clear with their message that they are tired of the negativity and they want a government that will work for them, it is transparent, and shows integrity. We are going to do that.”
Now that you’ve been elected what are you going to hit the ground running with?
“The work really starts tomorrow. We now have to start thinking about filling key positions like chief of staff. I haven’t given it any thought at all yet. Then we are going to start with the transition from the current administration.
Mayor Jajuga did reach out and leave me a message tonight to talk about the transition.”
“For me it’s going to start with a look under the hood, looking at the finances, that is so important because we have to come to the citizens and start the relationship fresh. We need to talk about what the city looks like financially moving forward. And before we do any other things like talking about the master plan or things of that nature, we have to understand where we are financially. That’s mission one.”
“We also have to start leading by example. We have to start leading by example with our behavior We have to stop all the negativity that has been so omnipresent. We have to focus on some of the good things that happen in our city.”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t critique each other, and I use you as a perfect example Tom, if there are things we do that require criticism we should welcome your criticism. I know I’m going to get that from you Tom when you think I’m wrong. But, I also look forward to that because it creates a dialogue about how we are going to fix the city. We need transparency about what we are doing and why we are doing it. That’s essential for all the citizens of Methuen.”
“I am immensely proud of my children tonight; my son has said that this is more than just an election, this is a job interview. So now, I’ve been hired and we have to start the job and start by building relationships with the new council members and figure out how we go forward from here. I know we talked about that during the debates and I thoroughly enjoyed all the debates, especially yours because there were a lot of topics that we could discuss and focus on how we can move the city forward.”
METHUEN MAYOR’S REPORT ON PAYING ATTENTION!
“As part of trying to be transparent and communicating with the public I’ve committed to you and the Paying Attention! Podcast to come on your show once a month and do a monthly Methuen Mayor’s Report for the public. I committed to that before the election and I’m going to keep my word on that. Every month we’re going to talk about things that affect the city, things that are coming up, and hopefully hearing from the citizens and getting feedback from them about things that are working in the community and things that are not working. That will give us a forum to address what things we are doing well and what things we need improvement on. I know you are always going to tell us when we are not getting something right. And I look forward to that. I mean that sincerely. Doing this once a month is very important so that the citizens can see that we’re not trying to hide anything or keep things from them. We are being upfront about the things that go well and the things that may not go well; that’s extremely important to me.”
THE NEGATIVE CAMPAIGN
I asked Neil if he was surprised that his opponent’s campaign went negative on his personal life.
“Yes. Probably the hardest thing is, I expected a little negativity but I didn’t expect what happened. I was a little disappointed at how it came out. They kept saying ‘rumors say this and rumors say that’ and that’s unfortunate. I think there’s a lesson for us all here that shows from the voters that negative campaigning does not work.”
“I’m a political neophyte, so the people who advised me said that if you’re going to go negative in a campaign you should go negative early, and then you come back strong with a positive message. I think all that negativity toward me at the end didn’t really hurt me at all. I think there was a backlash and it really helped me. I think the voters were very dismayed at some of the negative comments made about me. I mean, comparing me to Harvey Weinstein [who is a rapist] was way over the line in my book.”
“I have never raised my hand to any man, woman or child and that’s the truth. I’ve never had a physical altercation with anybody that I can recall, because to me things have to be worked out intelligently; you have to have relationships with people and discuss things.”
I asked if he planned to have an investigation as chairman of the school committee into how the Judy Scannell controversy actually happened in the first place.
“I know you’re going to hate this answer, I think what we really have to do is look at accountability from this point forward. All of the things that happen in the city while I’m the mayor.”
“We have to set a tone of accountability. I promise you this, when I screw up I’m going to tell you I screwed up. I own that. I’m not really a politician I’ve never learned how to be a politician and talk around things. So, when I screw up I’m going to say I own it. I think what we want to do in the city is that we want to show others that when you make mistakes, it happens, we are all human beings, but learn from that mistake, own it and don’t repeat it. Trying to cover it up or pretending it didn’t happen does not work for me that’s not in my core DNA. So I’m not going to accept that from anyone else.”
“During the campaign, people talked a lot about who was behind me who was supporting me, and who was the puppet master. I’m a 38 year executive at Raytheon. It would’ve been very easy for me to just stay doing that. I’m taking a pay cut to do this job. I’ve seen comments on Facebook and some people struggled to understand why I would leave a job that pays so well at Raytheon to do a job when the pay is only $80,000 a year. There is no pile of Gold for me coming into the mayor’s office. This is about restoring my city and public service.”
“I’ve had a good career and I’ve been fortunate to be able to put all four of my kids to college. I’m 61 going on 62, I’m going to have a pension from Raytheon so I’m not just going to be living on the $80,000 salary of the mayor.” ◊