In Year of Change, Voters Shake Up Council, School Administration

Overhaul could lead to increased reform at the local level

“Throw the bums out” was the unofficial motto of Cambridge politics this year, which saw a wonkish reformer upend a 70-year-old dynasty on the City Council and a changed School Committee put an end date on the district superintendent’s tenure.

Two veteran city councillors, Anthony D. Galluccio and Michael A. Sullivan, retired from the council this year.

While one of their replacements was a former councillor, David P. Maher, the other was urban planner Sam Seidel, who bested Sullivan’s cousin, Edward, for the seat.

The Sullivan family dynasty—which began with “Mickey the Dude,” a politically-canny Depression-era politician—had held a seat continuously on the city council since 1936.

On the School Committee front, previously-defeated member Marc C. McGovern stormed back from his loss in 2005, topping the ballot and winning 260 more votes than his nearest competitor. Veteran member Richard D. Harding was defeated, while another veteran, Nancy Walser, retired and was replaced by her ally, Nancy Tauber.

The new School Committee, which is stocked more heavily with critics of the district’s controversial superintendent, Thomas D. Fowler-Finn, voted in January to offer him a new contract, but voted again in May to limit the contract extension to just one year.

Though McGovern, who opposed renewing Fowler-Finn’s contract, said that the terms of the extension were not imposed on the superintendent, the schools chief will leave office in August 2009, just six years after he took over the 5,700-student district.

The School Committee has already started a search for a successor.

At the state level, the retirement of State Senator Jarrett T. Barrios ’90 set off a frantic race for the seat which included Galluccio, who has run for the seat twice before, as well as a politician from Chelsea and the son of a former State House speaker.

Galluccio won the seat by a large margin, which prompted the popular local politician to leave the city council after seven terms.

And at the federal level, the illness of Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56 has led to speculation as to who might succeed the liberal lion, who has served in the Senate since 1962.

While some media reports indicate that he might like his wife, Victoria, to succeed him, others say that an open Senate seat—which the Commonwealth has not seen since the election of John F. Kerry in 1984—could prompt campaigns by several of the state’s most prominent politicians.

The last time there was speculation about an open seat—when Kerry, who is running for reelection, was considering running for president again last year—those who said they might mount bids included Democratic Representatives Barney Frank ’62, Edward J. Markey, James P. McGovern, and Stephen F. Lynch, as well as former Representative Martin T. Meehan.

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at pbhayani@fas.harvard.edu.