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Sullivan Returns As City's Mayor

By Jessica R. Rubin-wills, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council re-elected Michael A. Sullivan mayor at its inaugural meeting Monday, making Sullivan only the fourth mayor to serve consecutive terms since World War II.

Traditionally, the council members, who elect the mayor from within their own ranks, take turns serving as mayor, and the election process can involve weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling.

But Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio said after the meeting that he and the four other councillors who voted for Sullivan were determined to decide based on qualifications, not whose turn it was—and they wanted to get it done quickly.

“Today was a statement that the old days are behind us,” he said.

After taking the oath of office, Sullivan told a packed audience that this council—whose nine members were all re-elected last November—would continue to focus on the issues of education, affordable housing and quality of life.

He also pledged to improve the city’s relations with local universities. Among the key votes last term, councillors unanimously supported a deal with Harvard over development of the Riverside neighborhood.

“We made some strides,” Sullivan said of the town-gown relationship, “but sure as heck we have a long way to go.”

First elected to the council in 1993, Sullivan hails from a local political dynasty, once called the “Kennedys of Cambridge.” His father and uncle both served as mayor, and Sullivan was sworn in under a portrait of his grandfather, former councillor Michael “Mickey the Dude” Sullivan, for whom the council’s Sullivan Chamber is named.

Monday’s council inauguration, in a City Hall decorated with red carpets and flowers, included performances by the Brothers of Kuumba—who count Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 among their alumni.

City Clerk D. Margaret Drury, who presided over the ceremonies, read the credentials of each councillor and administered the oath of office as their families and supporters looked on.

After they were sworn in, the councillors elected Sullivan as mayor as their first order of business. In a separate vote, Marjorie C. Decker was elected vice mayor.

Cambridge is run by a city manager hired by the city council, leaving the mayorship as a largely ceremonial position. In addition to chairing the city council, the mayor’s chief responsibility is to serve as chair of the School Committee.

How the Votes Came In

Sullivan garnered the five-vote majority when Galluccio stepped out of the race just days before the election, and worked to build a coalition to support Sullivan.

In addition to Galluccio and Sullivan, Councillors Decker, Reeves, and Timothy J. Toomey voted for Sullivan.

The other four votes initially went to Councillor Henrietta Davis, who served as vice mayor last term. Davis sat on the school committee for four years before her election to the council in 1995.

“I’m disappointed,” Davis said. “I had hoped to have the opportunity to work particularly with the school committee on the schools, but it was not to be.”

Councillors Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87 and E. Denise Simmons changed their votes from Davis to Reeves—who himself served two consecutive terms as mayor from 1992-1995—but none of the other councillors changed their votes, and it did not affect the outcome.

Both Galluccio and Decker said after the meeting that they had wanted to be mayor themselves, but put their support behind Sullivan after deciding they would not have the votes necessary to win.

“I felt that Michael was in the best position to bring the type of continuity and leadership that we need right now,” said Galluccio, who preceded Sullivan as mayor and also sought re-election last term.

Though Sullivan was not actively looking to be re-elected, he said he told other councillors he would be willing to serve again if asked.

In an interview he said he was aware of several other councillors’ desires to be mayor, but hoped they would be able to put aside any hard feelings and work together.

“It has not always been a pretty process,” Sullivan said of the mayoral elections. “Today was not a pretty process.”

Davis said she had been unable to predict going into the election whether she had the votes to win.

“These elections are always difficult,” she said. “I was elected by the people of the city to serve them and my focus is to carry on and do that.”

After the meeting, several councillors criticized the process by which the mayor is chosen.

“Too bad there isn’t a more civilized way to do this,” said Councillor David P. Maher, who voted for Davis.

Galluccio blamed the process for producing “unpredictable and undemocratic and unfair results.” He pledged to work on changing the system so the mayor is elected directly by Cambridge voters.

—Staff writer Jessica R. Rubin-Wills can be reached at

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