Councilor Avellaneda Takes Council President in Close Vote: New Councillors Join Incumbents for the 2020-21 Session

The City Council is heading into 2020 with a new president.

At Monday night’s organizational meeting, the council voted 6-5 to elect At-Large Councillor Roy Avellaneda as the new president over fellow At-Large Councillor Damali Vidot, who has led the body for the past two years.

Chelsea City Councillor Roy Avellaneda is sworn in as the new City Council President on Monday night after a close 6-5 vote in what had been a month’s-long struggle for power on the Council. Meanwhile (above), in the traditional ceremony, the 11 members of the Chelsea City Council for 2020-2022 were sworn in by Clerk Jeannette Cintron White.

The vote came following the swearing in of the 2020-21 City Council, which includes three new members — District 1 Councillor Todd Taylor, District 2 Councillor Melinda Vega Maldonado, and District 3 Councillor Naomi Zabot.

Avellaneda’s ascension followed a deadlocked vote in subcommittee to select a new president in December that saw Vidot and District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown deadlocked at five votes each, with At-Large Councillor Leo Robinson voting present.

Monday night, Robinson threw his support behind Avellaneda, who was nominated by Brown. Rounding out the six votes needed to prevail were the three newly elected councillors, Taylor, Zabot, and Maldonado. Vidot was nominated by District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez and also supported by Councillors Giovanni Recupero, Judith Garcia, and Yamir Rodriguez.

Garcia was unanimously selected to serve as vice president, as was Robinson to serve as the Council’s representative to the School Committee.

“2020 will be an important year … as we look to tackle issues in addition to our regularly scheduled mandates,” Avellaneda said in his address following the vote. “We will, of course, have the approval of the Capital Improvement Project, the city budget, and the tax rate. Our next meeting alone, we will have legislation and orders to provide funding for first time homeowners, a redesign plan for downtown Broadway, and new zoning regulations to reshape our work.

“This is also a year in which we address potential changes to our city charter, as we are mandated to do as far as our 10 year review.”

Avellaneda said one of his goals over the coming year is to improve the usefulness and legitimacy of the Council’s subcommittees.

Following the meeting, Vidot said she was not upset about losing the Council presidency, but did have concerns about the direction of Avellaneda and the new leadership. 

“I’m excited about the start of a new year with a new City Council, but I was disappointed in the leadership change,” said Vidot. “It is a reminder of behaviors that I do not believe reflects us as a Council or a city and that are demeaning to city, staff, and residents.”

Vidot and Avellaneda butted heads several times over the years when Vidot was president, including Avellaneda being ruled out of order in 2018 over charges he raised about Vidot’s campaign finances.

However, Vidot said she will do her best to work with the new leadership and continue to figure out how to move Chelsea in the right direction.

During the meeting, Robinson, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino, and State Rep. Daniel Ryan also delivered remarks to the Council and the audience.

Robinson, the longest-serving councillor, spoke of the progress made in Chelsea over the past decade, including the building of new hotels and the new FBI Boston headquarters as well as the city meeting its financial obligations with the Council working together.

However, Robinson noted that he feels the Council has lost some perspective over the past few years and has failed to work as cohesively as it did earlier in the decade.

“Our success over the next decade will not be about any one of us as individuals … we need to collaborate on a single, pro-Chelsea agenda,” Robinson said.

Ambrosino and Ryan both praised the elected officials for stepping up to the plate and serving during contentious political times.

“It’s important for the city to have good people taking part in local government,” said Ambrosino. “This city has real important work to do in the next two years.”

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