Opinion

Jourgensen: Lynn mayors made their mark

One of them ordered scenes showing women smoking cut from movies shown in Lynn. Another presided over local “balloon ascensions” and still another promptly answered Abraham Lincoln’s call to fight the Civil War. 

The people in question were Lynn mayors, and their faces and thumbnail sketches about their administrations make up a great exhibit displayed on City Hall’s second floor. 

I think the exhibit is one of the best improvements to the big gray building in a long time. Of course, I’m partial to mayors: My mother was one. But Carolyn Cole and everyone who helped her research and assemble the exhibit deserve praise and thanks. 

I’ve met a half dozen Lynn mayors and, when I recall them, I think about the mannerisms or pursuits that set them apart from other people. Judy Flanagan Kennedy’s treadmill comes to mind or Chip Clancy’s fondness for sayings like, “Put the bell on the cat.”

The late Patrick J. McManus — it’s hard to believe he has been gone 10 years — typically said what was on his mind. As a young reporter, if the phone rang and that distinctive voice on the other end said, “Oh, Scoop …” I knew I was in for a painful lecture. 

The City Hall exhibit sheds light on mayors I’ve never read about who, collectively, built a city from farmland, rocks and hills. It’s enlightening to read how each mayor, beginning in the second half of the 19th century, took small but significant steps to make sure the city had drinkable water and enough water to fight fires.

They built up the street network we travel on today and the schools new generations are educated in. The city’s gems — the Highlands, Lynn Shore Drive, Lynn Woods — are easy to take for granted until you read about contributions mayors made to improve and preserve these areas. 

Like modern mayors, the city’s past chief executives took stands or initiated policies setting them apart from predecessors and successors.

William F. Johnson’s 1858-1859 term saw the city linked by telegraph to Boston and Swampscott. Hiram N. Breed at the start of the Civil War took only a few hours to heed Lincoln’s call to mobilize troops. Two Lynn companies were the first of many troops to march off to war. 

Ballooning was apparently popular in the late 1860s and Mayor Roland D. Usher made sure the “City of Lynn” was among local balloons slipping the surly bonds.

E. Knowlton Fogg — perhaps the mayor with the most unique name in Lynn history — helped add roads to Lynn Woods and Charles Neal Barney devoted the term he served in 1906-1907 to Lynn Harbor improvements.

Lest he be forgotten, William P. Connery Sr. established pre-kindergarten programs in Lynn schools more than a century ago and George H. Newhall opened branch libraries.

It’s easy to view roads, water, communications, schools and libraries as modern must-haves. But a leader in another century had to establish the policies and map out the strategy for bringing these services to Lynn residents. 

Ralph S. Bauer served as mayor from 1926 to 1930 and, by all accounts, made an impression on city residents. The exhibit on his administration notes how Bauer ordered scenes showing women smoking cut from movies screened in Lynn theaters. But Bauer also fought local rent increases.

I will never meet Ralph Bauer or Knowlton Fogg. But I have met Pat McManus and Judy Kennedy. I think the most defining characteristic shared by mayors is the ability to make a decision and stand by the consequences that follow with its execution.

Pat McManus’ long-term Water and Sewer Commission contract; Chip Clancy’s decision to close the city nursing homes and Judy Kennedy’s push to bring in Market Basket were easy fodder for naysayers. But the benefits of those decisions will be reaped by Lynn residents for years to come.

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On  a lighter note, here’s a hearty get-well-soon from all the guys at the Lynn Y to Joe Merullo. 

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I really enjoyed meeting Korean War veterans Martin McDonough and Norman Thibodeau last week. Talk about a couple of tough hombres. Thibodeau brought his grandson to the city veterans salute and McDonough is a near lifelong Norcross Terrace resident who knew the late great Ed Battle. 

 

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