By Marjorie Nesin
---- — A potential mayoral candidate Tuesday claimed the campaign slogan “Shake it up, baby” as he worked toward challenging three-term Mayor Carolyn Kirk on the ballot — turning what loomed until the 11th hour as unopposed election into a contested race.
Mac Bell, a lifelong Gloucester resident and major commercial real estate owner in the city, pulled nomination papers to begin collecting the 300 certifiable signatures required to gain a spot on the ballot on Monday, working toward Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline to submit the required signatures to City Hall.
But after spending a few hours Monday, then more Tuesday collecting signatures, with the help of friends and family, along Main Street and elsewhere, Bell turned in his papers with more than 30 signatures minutes before the deadline.
“We’ve had a lot of positive response and a lot of help,” Bell said. “It will help the dialogue. It’ll be exciting for the community, and it’s what politics is about.”
Bell canvassed Main Street Tuesday, handing a clipboard to residents to sign and chatting up numerous residents who recognized him sitting outside one of his favorite spots, Caffe Sicilia. The recent passing of a few close friends had inspired Bell, who had been considering an eventual mayoral run, to pull papers at the last minute.
“I was thinking of doing it two years from now,” Bell said. “So, for me, it’s don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
Bell graduated Gloucester High School in 1971 and served two terms as a city councilor in the late 1970s, claiming the title of youngest ever councilor in Gloucester’s history.
The longtime Gloucester property owner, developer and businessman whose projects have included a previous attempt to redevelop the Birdseye site, has a portfolio that includes the so-called Chamber of Commerce building at 33 Commercial St. next door to the Birdseye and now Beauport Gloucester LLC property, the Gloucester Mill condominium complex on Maplewood Avenue, and the plaza that houses Walgreen’s and a number of other businesses between Main and Rogers streets.
He had collected 326 signatures by the 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday. City Clerk Linda Lowe will need to certify at least 300 of those signatures for Bell to gain a spot on the ballot.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who is seeking her fourth term, had collected more than 350 signatures and had 349 of them certified by Tuesday, assuring her a of place on the ballot as well.
Kirk Tuesday touted Bell’s collecting signatures as the “shaping up” of a “lively municipal election season.”
She pointed to the work her administration has done in balancing the budget of a city that often ran a deficit during the years before she took office.
“Our campaign is about the future of the city — a future the community can define because of our financial strength,” Kirk said.
When residents elected Kirk as mayor to fill the seat then vacated by Mac Bell’s cousin John Bell, the city faced a negative unreserved fund balance of $600,000. Under Kirk’s leadership, the city pulled that negative balance up to a positive $3.2 million in her first year, the mayor cited.
“We’ve come a long way in the six years I have been mayor, but there is more work to be done,” she said. “As we have in the past, we will rely on robust citizen engagement, so good decisions can be made on what is best for the city as a whole.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.