Robinson Gets Unanimous Vote for Council President

Councillor Leo Robinson is sworn in as the new Council President on Monday night by Clerk Deborah Clayman.

Councillor Leo Robinson is sworn in as the new Council President
on Monday night by Clerk Deborah Clayman.

City Councillor Leo Robinson ended the drama around the Council Presidency on Monday night by getting a unanimous 10-0 vote on the first ballot by his colleagues.

Serving as vice president will be Dan Cortell, and the School Committee Rep will be Chris Cataldo.

Much controversy erupted prior to the holiday season as Robinson and Councillor Cliff Cunningham squared off in a contested bid for the votes of their colleagues. At stake was not the normal duties of the Council President, but rather the lead role in conducting the search and choice and assimilation of a new city manager. The situation resulted into the political tactic of a quorum block being used at a mid-December meeting to stall a vote on the issue. In the interim, it appears that councillors worked out a solution and were unified by Monday.

Robinson graciously accepted the support of his colleagues, and at a public meeting on Tuesday, acknowledged the hard work of outgoing leaders Matt Frank (president) and Cunningham (vice president).

However, he used his acceptance speech on Monday to drive home the point to local non-profits, to residents and to City Hall leaders that the City Council is ready and up to the task of leading the way in picking a new city manager.

That unified Council message came due to some background conversations around the City doubting whether or not the Council could work together well-enough and professionally enough to correctly make this very important decision.

“Many a stakeholder have asked ‘What are we going to do now that Jay is leaving?,’” Robinson said. “Well, it’s true that you have big shoes to fill; those size 15s of yours are enormous. Our work together though, to ‘plan the work and then work the plan’ around a single ‘Pro-Chelsea agenda’ that has done so much to produce so many results here will live on…Life would be so much easier if the things that worked would work forever. Unfortunately, nothing ever works forever, and this night was going to happen sooner or later. I personally know it could have happened much sooner, so I cry not that we’re losing you too soon. Instead, I celebrate your work, Jay Ash, and now prepare for the next important task of our work, leading an effort to find our next accomplished manager here.

“There are some in Chelsea who are concerned that we won’t be equal to the task,” he continued. “To them, I say that the City Council has been two for two, having and continuing to reappoint Jay and his predecessor, Guy Santagate, to lead us through tougher times in great ways. For the last 20 years…Chelsea has seen the benefits of professionalism over politics, and I have every expectation that approach will get us the best possible next city manager to build off of Santagate and Ash and deliver us to an even higher place than we stand today.”

He said that no one needed to worry about a return to old-style politicking in the process and that he would lead a professional, transparent search.

“As the City Council president, I pledge to all of you stakeholders that we will conduct a truly open search, not seeking our best friend, but instead finding the best possibly qualified man or woman to be our next city manager,” he said. “As the City Council president, I pledge to all of you stakeholders that while the daily process may sometimes be rough – as it is only human nature to have disagreements and to sometimes have harsh words over those disagreements – the final product will make everyone proud. The old saying of needing to crack eggs in order to make a great soufflé is certainly an appropriate one here.”

Much of the rest of Robinson’s address, however, was devoted to remembering and thanking Ash for all the years he has put in at City Hall – literally transforming the City.

“Jay, on behalf of the City Council and our entire community, let me again thank you for all you have done for us personally and the City of Chelsea as a whole,” he said. “For the 18 years you have been at City Hall, including the last 14 as the city manager, you’ve been a great change agent, our biggest cheerleader and a terrific leader.”

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