Local Government and Politics, News

Three challengers have their eyes on open seat in Peabody

PEABODY — City Councilor-at-Large David Gravel’s decision not to seek re-election has made this year’s council race one to watch.

The other four incumbents, Thomas Gould, Anne Manning-Martin, Thomas Rossignoll and Ryan Melville, are seeking reelection. They will also face School Committeeman Jarrod Hochman, fellow Ward 1 Councilor Jon Turco, who is giving up his seat to run, and retired Peabody Police Capt. John DeRosa Jr. 

Voters will select five at-large councilors in the final election on Tuesday, Nov. 5. 

Melville finished fifth with less than 4,000 votes two years ago. That makes him vulnerable and it’s possible the council could see two new at-large councilors in January.

Two-term councilor Turco is seeking to switch from ward councilor to at-large because he can do more with a citywide perch, he said. 

“My claim to fame in this world has always been constituent service because I respond to everyone,” said Turco at his kitchen table. “I’m not always successful to resolve every issue, but I’m successful the vast majority of time.”

As he spoke, Turco displayed his cell phone with a list of 150 issues he’s worked on for residents. Most of them are crossed out.

“I’ve addressed all but about 20 so far, and I’m still working on those,” he said.

His successes serving constituents, he said, include meeting requests for trimming a city tree, sidewalk repair, helped convince the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on Bartholomew Street, and got a home connected to the city’s drain system on Martinack Avenue.

“This woman has been trying for seven years to get this done,” he said. “When I got involved the matter was resolved in a week.”

Another priority for Turco has been the clean up of Brown’s Pond and the area around it.

“This has been a major issue for residents of that section of the city where some have lived for more than 50 years,” he said. 

Turco, who can see the L. Fine Factory on Lynnfield Street from his backyard, wants to make sure the vacant, 90,000-square-foot mill recently listed for sale at $3 million is not turned into housing.

“That’s not the place for housing,” he said. “The zoning is for commercial uses and it should stay that way.”

School Committeeman Jarrod Hochman is making his second bid for City Council. Elected to the School Committee in 2009, Hochman is in the middle of his third term. 

The 49-year-old Brooklyn native, who moved to Peabody in 2002, lost a nail biter to Edward Charest for the open Ward 4 council seat four years ago by four votes. 

“At the time, I was happy to resume my work on the School Committee which I enjoy thoroughly,” said Hochman, an attorney. “But it’s a good time in my life to take on new challenges.” 

The divorced father of three daughters co-founded No Child Goes Hungry in Peabody nearly two years ago. The program provides backpacks filled with food for needy students who might go hungry otherwise on weekends.

He said the program launched with 120 backpacks of food distributed weekly in two schools and now serves more than 300 children in all eight elementary schools.

If elected to the council, Hochman said he would like to craft a similar program to Peabody’s seniors who despite several programs in the city, may face days without food.

Hochman does not know how much it would cost, but said there are grants and foundations willing to fund such a project.  

The other issue he has raised is the redevelopment of the former J.B. Thomas Hospital. A developer has proposed transforming the site into an over-55 community. Under the latest proposal, the 112-year-old hospital would be demolished and replaced with three, four-story wood frame and concrete buildings and parking for 238 cars. 

Hochman, who lives near the hospital, said the project is too big for the close-knit neighborhood.

“I’m not against development, I would be comfortable with a project about half the proposed size,” he said. 

While he stopped short of calling for a moratorium on development, Hochman saud he wants the council to be more judicious about development. 

DeRosa has also tossed his hat into the ring for an at-large seat. In May, he retired from the Peabody Police Department after 32 years, the last 10 as captain. 

At the time of his retirement, he served as Patrol Division and Emergency Control Center commander responsible for the day-to-day delivery of police services. 

As a member of the police force, DeRosa said he is not a stranger to City Hall and the council. 

“I’ve sat on various city committees as the police department representative, and have appeared before the City Council when necessary,” he said. 

He’s also served as an elected union president and worked as a member of the Public Employee’s Coalition to negotiate health insurance changes with the mayor’s representatives saving the city millions of dollars, he said.

“In law enforcement, you see lots of things, and I would be contributing to the city on a different level,” he said.

The council needs members who are responsive to constituents, he said. 

DeRosa is concerned about rising taxes in the city which, he said, put an unfair burden on elders who are just getting by due to the enormous cost of healthcare and prescription drugs.

He’d like to hold the line on tax hikes and perhaps trim the fat, if there is any, he said. 

Still, DeRosa knows he faces an uphill fight.

“It will be challenging,” he said. “People know me, but they know me in a different way from the others.”

 

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