In Salem, Wards 4 and 5 up for grabs as resident eyes mayoral run

Dustin Luca, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
·6 min read

Mar. 5—SALEM — Another city councilor has announced he isn't running for reelection, but he's leaving the door open for another campaign.

Tim Flynn, a Salem fire lieutenant, will not seek a third term representing Ward 4, which includes the city's Witchcraft Heights neighborhood.

"I'm a huge believer in term limits. I've been saying that all along, and I've mentioned to people over the years that I think two terms in an elected position is sufficient," Flynn said. "I want to keep fresh ideas coming into Ward 4. It's definitely heartbreaking for me, because I want to run for a third term, but I don't want to go against what I told people."

But Flynn said he is weighing the possibility of a run for mayor or councilor-at-large.

"Those are different positions than the city ward councilor," he said. "I'm getting a feeler from talking to people and obviously my family, and my job, whether I'm ready to retire."

Flynn said he would have to leave his post at the Salem Fire Department if he were to be mayor.

Mayor Kim Driscoll has yet to announce whether she will seek a fifth, four-year term. On Thursday, Driscoll said in an email that she's focused on the city's COVID-19 response and recovery.

"Cities are on the front lines of fighting this pandemic and we have seen that success in combating it requires steady, determined and collaborative leadership," she said. "I love Salem, I'm proud of our record of successes and will continue to do all that I can to see us through this recovery and beyond."

But one person has pulled nomination papers for mayor from the City Clerk's Office, signaling an intention to run: Kevin Darcy of Northend Avenue.

Darcy, 35, said Thursday that he's not officially a candidate — he anticipates he'll decide next week or soon after whether he'll mount a campaign.

A local restaurant worker, Darcy said he has brain cancer and was told three years ago that he only had six months to live. He said he's motivated to run for mayor after "watching the political mess that the country seems to be in, and it seems like we're at a boiling point."

"I might be a registered Democrat, but I think it's all a sham," Darcy said. "I'm talking about corporate America. I think the Dems and Republicans have it set up so nobody is ever going to win. Salem is a great city to start the movement... Are we going to make an actual change? I'm going over how I'm going to form my own political party."

As for Salem, Darcy raised concerns about the city's image changing as large hotels open downtown and the cost of living continues to skyrocket.

"We need to be catering to our current residents of Salem, not making it a destination city for the rich, white people of America," Darcy said. "I'm from the North Shore. I'm a restaurant worker. I've been through the ringer and back, and we need change. It should be coming from a guy like me, not a lifetime politician."

That said, Flynn noted his comments on term limits apply specifically to him and shouldn't be read as a criticism of Driscoll, who has led the city for more than 15 years.

"I don't fault anyone (for long tenures). I just don't want to be the type where, sometimes, you see people in a position too long," Flynn said. "I really do care about the people of (Ward 4), and I want fresh ideas. I want to do what's best for them."

City Council, School Committee

Nomination papers to run for office in this year's municipal elections became available Monday. By Thursday afternoon, five candidates had pulled papers for three City Council positions, City Clerk Ilene Simons said. So far, no current councilors have pulled nomination papers.

Flynn is the second councilor to announce he will not seek reelection. Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel said in January that his current fifth term will be his last.

A race has already formed in Ward 5. Both Hancock Street resident Jeff Cohen, a supporter of green energy initiatives and co-chair of the city's No Place for Hate committee, and Wisteria Street resident Steve Kapantais, a staunch Americans with Disabilities Act advocate, have announced plans to run.

Two candidates have pulled papers for city councilor-at-large: Alice Merkl, a Federal Street resident and past council candidate; and Frederic Norton of Holly Street. In Ward 7, Andrew Varela of Cedarcrest Avenue has pulled papers, signaling a potential rematch against current ward Councilor Steve Dibble. In 2019, Dibble beat Varela with 65% of the vote. Varela co-owns Maitland Mountain Farm.

As for Ward 4, Flynn said the Boston Street reconstruction, along the northern edge of the ward, will be a top issue for whoever succeeds him on the council.

"It's going to be curb-to-curb redone, and whoever is the ward councilor, I just hope they work really closely with Planning in the city and the residents, and ensure that all agree that it's the best project," Flynn said. "Remember the residents of Ward 4 are your boss. You work for them."

No one has pulled papers for School Committee, where three of six elected members are up for new four-year terms. Committee members Amanda Campbell, Manny Cruz and Ana Nuncio are up for reelection.

To respond to this story or suggest another, contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

HOW TO RUN FOR OFFICE

Nomination papers became available at the City Clerk's office on Monday. They can be pulled until 5 p.m. Friday, July 23, and must be returned by 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 27.

Residents looking to run for a City Council ward seat need to return nomination papers with 25 signatures from voters. For citywide seats like city councilor-at-large, School Committee and mayor, a candidate must collect at least 100 signatures.

"We advise they get 20 percent more just in case" any signatures fail certification, City Clerk Ilene Simons said.

The city's municipal elections are set for Tuesday, Nov. 2. If any races have too many candidates — twice the number of available seats plus one — a preliminary election would be held Tuesday, Sept. 14, to narrow the field for the final ballot.

Forms are available in the City Clerk's elections office on the first floor of City Hall, 93 Washington St.