By STEVE KRAUSE
Earlier this month, State Representative Bob Fennell was named deputy director of the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission. He will have to relinquish his seat on Beacon Hill, which will launch — I hope — a spirited run for the position.
I say “spirited” because I sincerely hope the seat is contested — not because I anticipate being strongly opposed to any of the candidates, but in the bigger picture, democracy is a participation sport. No participation, no democracy.
However, if there are 20 candidates for Fennell’s seat, here’s one person who I hope stays exactly where he is: Lynn City Council President Dan Cahill.
Before we go on, please understand this is not a knock on Dan Cahill. He’s been the proverbial breath of fresh air as City Council president. He fosters an air of collegiality that allows our councilors to thrive and flourish. As president, he’s served as a conduit between various departments within the city, and, as a result, much has gotten accomplished.
Cahill is averse to taking credit for things — even when he deserves it. That in itself makes him a rare breed in the business of politics.
One case in point occurred over the summer when Cahill helped push for the money needed to fund a feasibility study for a new Pickering Middle School. Although more than one person identified Cahill as the prime mover, he instead deflected credit.
He probably hangs up his jacket and puts his shoes where nobody can trip over them too.
I am sure that someday Dan Cahill will go far in politics, if he wants to. And I hope he does. He deserves any success he achieves in this business. He’s good at it.
But now is not the right time for him to seek higher office. I know … I hate that. I’ve been told, more than once, that “you’re too valuable where you are, and we can’t promote you to the job you seek as a result.”
I won’t lie. I’ve always thought that is the perfect example of blowing smoke. It’s an easy thing to say to assuage someone’s fractured ego — or, at least, try to. The hope is that the person you’ve just turned down for the Big Promotion will come away from the experience with feelings similar to Sally Field at the Oscars: “You LIKE me …”
Only it happens to be the case with Cahill this time. He is too valuable where he is. He may consider it his misfortune to be so good at what he does that nobody wants him to leave, but he can at least take comfort (I hope) that someone such as I would take the time to beg him not to run.
Lynn has a good thing going right now, and Cahill’s a big part of why. I’ve lived in the city all of my life, and I’ve seen some of the buffoonery that has gone on in council meetings in the past. I’ve seen what happens when just one councilor decides he or she wants to be a maverick and rock the boat, detracting attention from what needs to be done.
I have never seen elected and appointed officials band together the way they have in the last year to perform the often-arcane duties of city government. I can’t imagine it was a barrel of laughs to sit, meeting after meeting, poring over centuries-old zoning laws, trying to sort them out. But Lynn did it, and now there’s at least a plan that, hopefully, reaches fruition so that Lynn can reach its potential.
I also have never seen elected and appointed officials band together the way they did to identify projects that seemed to go against what they’d worked so hard to achieve. They got burned once, with a Centerboard project on Broad Street that snuck by them, but they’ve seen to it that it hasn’t happened since.
But with all this, here’s why I want Dan Cahill as my City Council president: A month ago, there was a big meeting on the steps of City Hall that celebrated a federal-state-municipal partnership on behalf of the city’s continued growth. Earlier this year, Jay Ash, the state’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, told city officials that Lynn had enormous potential, and the city was definitely on his radar. As the man who helped revive a good part of Chelsea in his last job, this was music to our ears.
But it came with one caveat: the window of opportunity never stays open indefinitely and it can close in a heartbeat. The clock is ticking. And Ash said that if he detected the type of political posturing that tends to stall projects and progress, as opposed to moving them along, he was out of here. There are plenty of other places that need his help too.
That’s fair. I have no problem with that and neither should anyone else. But people such as Dan Cahill, with level heads and egos healthy enough that they can be comfortable standing in the background as others get the credit, are the ones we need to make sure this window stays open.
If you’re thinking of running for state representative, Dan, I wish you’d reconsider. We need you here. This is one time where the “you’re too valuable in your current position” meme is actually the truth.
Steve Krause can be reached at email@example.com.