PEABODY — Just when it looked like Mayor Edward Bettencourt Jr. would breeze into a fifth term unopposed, one challenger has emerged.
Jacqueline Conway, who lives at the Pine Grove Mobile Home Park on Newbury Street, better known as Route 1, hopes to replace him.
The 53-year-old former kindergarten aide at Bates Elementary School in Salem has never run for office. Today, she collects Social Security Disability Insurance after suffering a back injury.
Asked why she wants to be the city’s chief executive, Conway said it’s a long story, but offered what she called the condensed version.
Her grandfather owned the family home at 22 Lynnfield St. When her mother died in 2011, Conway was left the two-family dwelling through a family trust, she said.
In 2017, after years in court, former City Treasurer Jeanne Carnevale put the house in her own daughter’s name, who purchased it, Conway said.
A check of the records of the Southern Essex Middlesex Registry of Deeds reveals a complicated paper trail and a fractured family.
The Conway Family Trust was created in 1997. In addition to Conway, it included her sister, Patricia Wilson, and brother Daniel Conway, according to county records.
Three years later, the city of Peabody seized the 94-year-old home for nonpayment of $3,125 in real estate taxes. By 2017, the amount grew to $9,000.
In 2017, Daniel Conway registered documents at the Registry of Deeds to remove his sister from the trust and appointed Crystal Papanickolas as the sole trustee. It was signed by her father, Emmanuel Papanickolas, a Peabody attorney and notary.
That year, the Conway Family Trust and trustee Crystal Papanickolas sold the home to Victory Realty Trust and Mary R. Burbridge for $239,500. It was quickly flipped to Kerry R. Mahoney for $530,000.
“The mayor and his employees did dirty stuff, that’s why I’m running,” Conway said. “I want my grandfather’s house back and when I get it, I will donate it to homeless veterans.”
Bettencourt denied the allegations.
“Our office is familiar with Miss Conway,” he said. “She has frequently reached out to us on issues and has made accusations against the police, the courts and City Hall.”
The mayor said he is unfamiliar with the family dynamics that led to the loss of her home.
“But we have always submitted her complaints to the appropriate authorities,” he said.
It’s unclear how becoming mayor could solve Conway’s estate troubles.
One thing is clear. Conway is prohibited from going anywhere near the Lynnfield Street home.
“I went to the house and told the new owners ‘This is my house,'” she said. “They got a restraining order against me. But it’s not over yet. I want what’s mine.”
Still, Conway insists she is not a one-issue candidate. She said the city has a rat problem, has failed to do enough recycling, and many streets and sidewalks need repair. She did not provide details on how to improve those services.
Crystal Papanickolas and Jeanne Carnevale could not be reached for comment.
Emmanuel Papanickolas did not return a call seeking comment.