By: Tom Duggan – October, 2013
Two years ago Methuen Mayor Steve Zanni (then an at-large city councilor) had a tough fight on his hands to win the mayor’s race against businessman Al DiNuccio.
The difference between Zanni and DiNuccio back in 2009 could not have been more stark. Zanni was an institutional Democrat with support from the party, while DiNuccio was a Tea Party conservative (as a side note, DiNuccio got no support from the Tea Party).
After a close vote on Election Day and a recount, Zanni defeated DiNuccio by only 34 votes and took office as mayor in January of 2010.
One of the issues that helped Zanni defeat DiNuccio was his opposition to privatizing the city’s ambulance service, a promise he kept.
This year, in his first bid for re-election, the one term mayor faces a different kind of opponent in At-Large Councilor Jennifer Kannan, who is also a Democrat.
MAYOR STEVE ZANNI
Critics of Zanni say his move to try and privatize the city’s internet and technology department would have been bad for the city, a move that his opponent Jen Kannan and the majority of the city council blocked. Zanni said it would have saved the city thousands of dollars.
“I am running on the results of my administration,” Zanni told Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan on 980WCAP’s Paying Attention Radio Program.
“I am running for re-election based on my accomplishments, basically because results count. One of those accomplishments, is of course, the high school, number one. The high school as you know when I came into office was $6M over budget. It took me four months but I changed contractors, as you know we went from the company that we had to Consigli which is out of Medford, Mass. They in turn came in last May, we went to a two phase operation as opposed to a three, which means they are working around the clock. In turn, they will have the school done on time, on budget and by May of 2014 … which actually is supposed to be July of 2014 … but as I went through last week, they are actually ahead of the final schedule. It will have a performing arts center. It will have a state of the art science lab, 17 to be exact, and we will rival any high school in the state when this is complete. It’s a tremendous building for education for our kids.
Asked about complaints by city councilors about lack of communication with the council when events happen in the community, Zanni said councilors are not communicating with his office.
“Some of the events have been ribbon cutting and all the councilors have been invited. Some have been done by the chamber of commerce; if they don’t reach out to them, that’s up to them. We just had an event where we opened the Santana Ray, a brand new Mexican restaurant, the councilors had been invited and only one showed up. So, I can’t be on them, they get the information on time as far as emails that are sent to them, and sometimes are called; but it’s given to them once and I don’t know what their schedules are like, but I try to inform the councilors as much a possible.
The other thing is that when we have manufacturers come in, those are time sequential, sometimes they occur in the morning, sometimes they occur later in the day, but I think for the most part they have been notified. The other part is, I have an open door policy. Some of the councilors appreciate that, and some others never come by. So, if they come I can tell them exactly what is going on during the course of the month, and what might be coming up. All of them do know that I have an open door policy, they are welcome to come in and discuss any issue.”
“Gearing up for these last four weeks of the campaign, the biggest thing I had done is go door to door, and that’s very important. For a mayor to ring doorbells after they get elected is something that most mayors will not do. So what I am doing is getting a pulse of the people, what their comments are in the community, and most people feel as though I am moving the city in the right direction.
The lawsuits have stopped, I’ve taken care of the high school; with the health insurance costs, I have saved over million dollars. I have set up an economic development strategy, a group which, as you know Century Box was going to move to North Carolina, they are now staying. There will be 100 brand new, good paying jobs coming up this year and they are building another 54,000 square foot building.
So, those are the things I have accomplished, as far as the difference between the two candidates (Zanni and Kannan) results do count here. I stand on my record of what I have done over the course of the last two years in bringing our city forward and including all people. I am only holding on to the seat for the people. When I am done, I hope to make it just a little bit better than what it was when I came into office.
Zanni said he is not having any fundraisers in the final weeks of the campaign, saying he already raised more than $20,000 back in June. He said he is putting a lot of his own money into the campaign because he doesn’t want to owe people down the road. I am my own person, I am very independent. When you run a campaign and you hold a fund raiser or four or five events in a row, you are going back to the same people over and over so, to me I think people have to run on their records.
Methuen has 48,000 people, it’s 27 square miles, and people throughout the community know what is going on. I think that is an important part of this.
I grew up in the city of Lawrence; I know that people work hard and they can’t afford to just keep giving.”
COUNCILOR JEN KANNAN
Councilor Jen Kannan received the endorsement of the Methuen Police Patrolman’s Association and the Methuen Superior Officers. The Methuen Firefighters Association did not endorse any candidate in this race.
Jennifer is married to Bill Kannan, owner of Kannan & Pricone Plumbing and Heating, a Methuen based business. They have three children: Billy and his wife, Meghan, Brittney and Farrah, and they also have a granddaughter, Tessa Rose Therrien, all of Methuen.
Kannan attended Methuen Public Schools, AREA Real Estate Academy and is currently enrolled in UMASS Lowell’s Bachelors of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in legal studies.
She has been employed for 11 years at Methuen based Coco, Early & Associates Real Estate Company where she has received numerous awards for her perseverance in business.
She Served as councilor at-large for three two year terms, was chairman of the city council in 2012, elected by unanimous vote, was Vice-Chair of the City Council in 2009, was Chairman of the City Council Consolidation Committee in 2010 and 2011, a member of the Finance Committee (2010 -2011) was secretary of the Forest Lake Association (2009-2012) was an Ashford School PTO- Volunteer, (1991-1993), CGS PTO- Volunteer, (1994-2009) and Methuen Girls Softball- Volunteer coach, (1999-2000).
“I am running because I have the ability to consensus build. I have the ability to listen to people and I will listen to department heads and the people who serve this city as well as the voters. The current mayor is not doing that. I am the kind of person who likes to listen and then sit back and digest it all and then deal with each problem in a fair manner.”
“Steve Zanni had the support of a lot of the unions in last elections, but I was endorsed by both police unions this year. He was very good to them as far as money, but they don’t want to work with him because they don’t find him as open minded as they find me. We have different personalities. The police unions said they want to work with someone they feel has Methuen’s best interest at heart.
I also feel Steve Zanni is running his campaign on results that were the efforts of other people. He is running around, giving false positives about his results. Those results were from the prior administration. Bill Manzi got the the high school back on track, not Steve Zanni.
“As for me, I sell the City of Methuen every day in my job as a realtor. Every day I hear what people want when they are thinking about moving into a community. I want what they want.”
“I want to improve our standing in the schools and make sure the teachers have the right tools. I don’t know what he has done there, because right now we are ranked in the bottom 11 school districts in the state.
I want to improve the education, the learning environment, give teachers the tools to bring those numbers up. I want to focus on improvement. We have a beautiful building that Zanni is taking credit for. But I want to improve what is going on inside that building.
As for the city’s losing it’s bond rating, again, Mayor Zanni says that’s its not his fault. But there was no plan. There was no communication. There was no discussion of solving the problem. For me, it’s about having a plan, and when I’m mayor it will be a plan everyone will see. I will put it on-line. I will pass it out at council meetings. Nobody will ever wonder what my plan is, it will be out there for all to see.”
“And I promise the people this: any results I tout as mine will be mine. I will never take credit for what other people accomplish. I am the candidate that truly will work for the people and everybody knows it. I return 100% of the phone calls I get from constituents.”
“Mayor Zanni wants to change the number of city councilors from nine to five. Why? So you only need three votes to get your own way instead of five? In Methuen there are nine councilors for checks and balances. The charter commission met for 18 months and I can’t imagine why, now he says we need to change the council to five members. He didn’t bring this up back then.”
“I’ve knocked on doors, heard people’s concerns about the issues in the this city that the mayor never even addresses. The increased drug deals in the central district, where is the mayor on this issue? We need more cops and a safe community so businesses will want to come here. He has been mayor for two years and he has done nothing about it.”
“We funded new cruisers at the council level and we have to keep asking him where they are. We need to give these cops the equipment they need so they can be safe while they are trying to keep us safe. Where is the leadership?”
“At the end of the day, as far as being a mayor, I am the mayor that people can count on. I am the mayor who is willing to make sure our community is safe, to make sure it’s running efficiently and effectively and not creating hostility between people so Methuen can get work done.
“If you look at the whole bond rating fiasco, the city council never knew about the bond rating reduction. We had to read about it in the paper. My question is, why did I have to bring that to the Valley Patriot and the rest of the press to inform the public when that’s the mayor’s job. And even after you guys at the Patriot published the story, he still didn’t release a statement on what happened until people called him for comment. That’s not leadership. You have to tell people in the community what’s really going on, and he doesn’t do that.”
“I will do that, I am doing it now. And if people vote for me to be the next mayor, they will see the difference between taking credit for other people’s results and someone who actually produces their own.”