MANCHESTER, NH — The inaugural festivities were short-lived Tuesday for Manchester mayor Joyce Craig. Less than an hour after officially assuming office at the Radisson Hotel, the newly-elected mayor was in City Hall where it was business-as-usual for the partisan-divided Board of Aldermen, charged with electing a new Chairman of the Board.
Despite the city’s non-partisan election process, the party lines were quickly drawn.
Democrat Daniel P. O’Neil, Alderman At-Large, was nominated by Ward 4 Alderman Christopher Herbert and seconded by Bill Barry of Ward 10. Republican Keith Hirshmann, Ward 10, was nominated by Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau and seconded by At-Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur.
An initial vote was split 7-7. The Mayor then called for a 15 minute recess, “in hopes that [the Alderman] can talk through this and reach a consensus.”
“This is an important vote for the Alderman to choose your chairman,” Craig reminded the board.
The recess lasted for more than 25 minutes. Initially, Aldermen Levasseur, Shaw and Shea stayed behind as the rest of the board adjourned to an adjacent conference room. They entered the room later to join discussions. At 12:05 p.m., aldermen were seen filing out of the conference room into the chambers.
A second vote was held. This time, Daniel O’Neil was supported by Aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Ward 1, Will Stewart, Ward 2, Christopher Herbert, Ward 4, Anthony Sapienza, Ward 5, Bill Barry, Ward 10, Normand Gamache, Ward 11, and himself.
Republican Keith Hirshmann was supported by Tim Baines, Ward 3, Elizabeth Moreau, Ward 6, Alderman At-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur, William Shea, Ward 7, John Cataldo, Ward 8, Barbara Shaw, Ward 9, and himself.
The result was a second 7-7 split. Joyce Craig broke the tie in favor of Daniel O’Neil, who was then confirmed as Chairman to the Board.
“We’re right back to where we were,” said Alderman Levasseur after the vote, “back to partisan politics.”
“The mayor broke the tie in favor of her party…it looks like it’s going to be a long two years of resistance.”
Former Manchester Mayor Bob Banes took a much more tempered stance to the vote. “That’s the decision she made,” he said of Craig’s decision to split the vote, calling the 7-7 split “not unusual,” for the city’s politics.
“I think she should have stayed out of it completely until someone gave up,” countered Levasseur, “that’s how it’s been done in the past.”
Joyce Craig, a Democrat, assumed office Tuesday, after defeating Republican Ted Gatsas, who held the office of mayor for the past eight years. The meeting with the Aldermen was followed by a meeting of the Board of School Committee, which again elected Arthur Beaudry, Ward 9, as vice-chair with the uncontested support of the board.