Ten months after gaining the votes of her City Council colleagues to serve as mayor through 2015, Sefatia Romeo Theken has captured the support of Gloucester residents to serve a full two-year term.
Sefatia Romeo Theken handily won Gloucester's wards 2, 3 and 5 and split wards 1 and 4 with her opponent for mayor, City Council President Paul McGeary.
Romeo Theken, who has served as interim mayor since her appointment by her fellow councilors last January, bested McGeary 5,266 to 4,134 in the run to be Gloucester's chief executive.
The election will make Romeo Theken, 53, just the second woman to serve as an elected mayor -- and the second in a row -- when she takes the oath of office for her new term on Jan. 1. Carolyn Kirk, who served into a fourth term before leaving for a state position in Gov. Charlie Baker's administration at the turn of the new year, had been the first elected female mayor when she won her first term in 2007. Beatrice Corliss also served as mayor from 1955 through 1962, but that was under a format when the mayor was chosen by the City Council.
Romeo Theken's triumph Tuesday came on a day in which city voters trekked to the polls under sunny, 60 degree skies, and on a night when those voters also chose a new City Council, a new School Committee and extended their advice through a non-binding referendum as to whether the city should continue to add supplemental fluoride to its water system.
Romeo Theken's win caps what has been one of the longest and perhaps the most costly election campaign in Gloucester history.
Campaign finance reports posted with the state show that, through Oct. 16, McGeary's committee had raised $54,615 and Romeo
Theken's $37,425 for a $92,040 total more than two weeks shy of Election Day.
The campaign began last December when Councilor at-large Greg Verga first announced his run for the mayor's seat, more than two weeks before Kirk announced she was stepping down. McGeary, completing his third term as Ward 1 city councilor and his second as council president, officially entered the race in March, and Romeo Theken jumped into the fray on July 13. Longshots Francisco Sclafani and Daniel Ruberti capped off the five-candidate preliminary field.
Romeo Theken and McGeary advanced to Tuesday's showdown at the polls by outdistancing Verga and the others in a preliminary election on Sept. 29.
The race included more than a dozen debates and candidate forums, leading into the preliminary and general elections.
Front and center in those talks was Romeo Theken's initial announcement last January that she would only serve out the remainder of Kirk's term and not run for election this fall. Romeo Theken later said that once she stepped into the mayor's seat, she gained a greater realization as to what she and her administration could accomplish, and as the campaign season dawned, she sought the chance to see through a number of proposals.
McGeary, who turns 66 on Wednesday, noted in at least two October debates and in campaign literature mailed this past weekend that Romeo Theken's change of mind raised questions of trust -- and said voters could count on him to stick to his word.
Romeo Theken had campaigned on her record as interim mayor, even during a 10-month period, when -- among other moves -- she quickly named a new chief of administration in former councilor Jim Destino and named then-administration chief Sal Di Stefano to the long-vacant post of economic development director.
In the succeeding months, Romeo Theken led the city in its first foray in more than 20 years to the North American Seafood Expo in Boston and welcomed seafood industry executives from around the world to Gloucester in a bid to bolster the city's economic profile. She also led a push to bring in grants, including $3.1 million in federal money to help landlords alleviate lead paint in houses and boost the city's affordable housing stock. She worked with the office of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton to win a $550,000 federal infrastructure grant toward a $1.1 million sewer project to help business in Blackburn Industrial Park, and pushed forward a request for proposals to sell the Fuller School property.
Romeo Theken -- a longtime community health-care liaison with Addison Gilbert Hospital -- had served for 13 years as a city councilor-at-large prior to her being named interim mayor. She was first elected when she finished fourth in an unchallenged, four-candidate race for the at-large seats in 2001. She also finished as the city's top overall vote-getter in 2005, 2007 and 2013, topping the vote totals in the head-to-head mayoral races those years as well.
Throughout the campaign McGeary has espoused his vision for the city -- a Gloucester in which a child could be born here, attend local schools, either go to college or enter a skilled work force, then remain or return here and be able to afford a home and raise a family.
Citing his experience as a journalist with the Gloucester Daily Times and The Boston Globe, then as The Globe's IT manager and director, he touted his background as an effective manager and "consensus builder" -- including as a council member on projects such as the installation of the city's wind turbines in Blackburn Industrial Park.
He was first elected as Gloucester's Ward 1 city councilor in 2009, and has served as council president since 2012.
Staff Writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.