Veteran Mayor Returns to Post

Cambridge City Council elects Harvard grad who also held the office in ’90s

The Cambridge City Council elected Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 mayor at its inaugural meeting on Monday, returning him to an office that he previously held for two terms in the 1990s.

After taking the oath of office before the packed chamber, Reeves extolled his fellow council members and the city of Cambridge in a statement in which he promised to “stand up, speak up, and be brief.”

“Any one of us could be the mayor; every two years we change the mayor. It is an odd process. I promise to serve you to the best of my ability,” said Reeves, who first served as mayor from 1992 to 1995. He was the first openly gay and black mayor in the country.

City council members elect the mayor from within their own ranks every two years during the first meeting of the new term. Council members traditionally take turns serving as mayor, which is a largely ceremonial position. The mayor leads council meetings and also serves as chair of the School Committee. The council hires a city manager, Robert W. Healy, to run the daily operations of the city.

During his speech, Reeves laaudedoutgoing mayor Michael A. Sullivan, who held the position from 2002 to 2005 and will now begin his seventh term on the council. Reeves praised Sullivan and his family for their many years of service to the city. The council’s chamber is named for Sullivan’s grandfather, former councillor Michael “Mickey the Dude” Sullivan.

“We’re assembled here in the people’s hall, where democracy takes place,” Reeves said. “They’ve named this place the Sullivan Chamber...to remind us of what this place is.”

In an interview yesterday, Sullivan praised Reeves’ experience as well as his interest in improving public education.

“Ken, I believe, will be able to help us work together. He’s very, very bright, he’s articulate, he has a great deal of passion for people, and he has a desire to focus on the educational system,” Sullivan said. “Ken is more than up to the task, having served two terms prior. I think Ken will help us move in the right track about addressing the needs of our children.”

Sullivan said he had “mixed emotions” about stepping down as mayor, saying that he enjoyed the position but welcomed the chance now to spend more time with his family.

“I had the great opportunity to work with a great group of people...but I have a five and a seven-year-old. It took a toll, and the kids were excited that I won’t be at meetings every night,” he said.

Monday’s meeting included the swearing-in of all nine councillors, including new member Craig A. Kelley, who won a seat over incumbent David P. Maher in the November elections.

After the councillors took the oath of office, the first order of business was the election of a mayor.

Five council members initially voted for Reeves. In addition to Reeves and Sullivan, they included Marjorie C. Decker, Anthony D. Galluccio, and Timothy J. Toomey.

The other four councillors initially voted for E. Denise Simmons, who is beginning her third term on the council. Three of them, Henrietta Davis, Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87, and Simmons herself then changed their votes to Reeves, resulting in a 8-1 decision. Kelley did not change his vote for Simmons.

Council member Timothy J. Toomey was elected vice mayor in a separate election afterward. The five councillors who initially voted for Reeves for mayor also voted for Toomey for vice mayor. The other four councillors initially voted for Murphy, but all of them changed their votes to Toomey, resulting in a unanimous vote.

Galluccio, who generally receives the most votes in the city-wide council elections, has proposed switching to a system under which Cambridge voters would elect the mayor directly. During the past term, Sullivan appointed a committee to study the proposal. Sullivan said yesterday that the committee had not worked out the details of how such a system could work.

“I think its definitely worth further exploration,” Sullivan said.

—Staff writer William L. Jusino can be reached at jusino@fas.harvard.edu.