Gail Infurna first woman to serve as mayor

Jan 11, 2018 by

Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

GAIL M. INFURNA

MELROSE — Ward 5 Alderman Gail M. Infurna was named president of the Board of Aldermen Monday, and come Feb. 5, she also will be the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor.

She will succeed Mayor Robert J. Dolan, who is leaving that first February Monday to officially become the top municipal professional in Lynnfield. Under City Charter rules, since a vacancy would occur in the mayor’s post during the last two years of the four-year term, the position is to be filled by the sitting aldermanic president.

Infurna said Monday she would not seek election as mayor but would rather concentrate all her attention on the interim duties of the office. The mayor’s position is up from election again in November 2019.

During the normally routine annual selection of board president, Infurna was chosen after five rounds of voting, the last one of which was basically a show of solidarity led by the man who just last month had his colleagues’ unanimous backing for aldermanic president, Alderman-at-Large Michael P. Zwirko. 

Infurna, who has been an alderman for 20 years before that, was the eventual beneficiary of Dolan’s late-December selection as the next Lynnfield town administrator. Zwirko, who now is in his third year as alderman-at-large, had put his name forward to be the president of the Board of Aldermen before anyone knew Dolan might be leaving.

Then suddenly three others wanted to lead the board.

During initial balloting among the aldermen Monday, Zwirko and Infurna got four votes each. Alderman-at-Large Monica C. Medeiros received two votes (one from her and one from Ward 4’s Robert A. Boisselle) and Ward 1’s John N. Tramontozzi cast a vote for himself.

The tie for most votes led to a discussion about how to proceed, with advice from City Solicitor Robert Van Campen. Basically, Van Campen urged the aldermen to push on with more rounds of balloting until one person got a majority of votes to be the next aldermanic president. He suggested going five rounds, which is what they did.

On the second ballot, the outcome was the same: Alderman-at-Large Kate Lipper-Garabedian (at her first meeting) supported Infurna’s candidacy, as did Ward 3’s Francis X. Wright Jr., Ward 2’s Jennifer L. Lemmermen and Infurna. Zwirko was supported by himself, Ward 6’s Peter D. Mortimer, Ward 7’s Scott M. Forbes and new At-Large Alderman Manisha Gadia Bewtra. Medeiros was backed by herself and Boisselle, and Tramontozzi cast the only vote for his candidacy.

On the third ballot, Tramontozzi switched his vote to Infurna and Medeiros indicated that she would too, although Medeiros said she still felt she was “the best person to do the job.”

But you need the votes, and when the smoke finally cleared on the fourth ballot, Boisselle had changed his vote to Infurna as well.

Zwirko called for a fifth ballot to show solidarity via a unanimous vote, and Gadia Bewtra, Forbes and Mortimer agreed, voting for Infurna to make her nomination as board president, and mayor-in-waiting, unanimous.

Infurna thanked the board for its support, adding, “This is how we work together.”

She added, “The next two years will be tough. I look forward to working with all of you. This is an exciting time for the city.”

Earlier in the reorganization meeting, before voting, Lipper-Garabedian suggested that each of the four candidates who wanted to be the president of the Board of Aldermen address the body.

Zwirko, chosen in a non-binding straw vote on Dec. 4 to be the next aldermanic president, emphasized his experience in professional finance, his preparedness, his energy and his commitment to the city. He also spoke about the immediate past. “You gave me your unanimous consent on Dec. 4 (to be the next president of the Board of Aldermen); I’d like to be considered again.”

Infurna said she would only serve as an interim mayor, declaring that she would not be a candidate for election in November 2019. She said she looked forward to working with Dolan’s administrative team and is more than qualified given her 20 years as alderman (including past president of the board) and her involvement in the community.

Medeiros said she is “smart, capable and able to help the city get through the challenges it faces.” She said she has plenty of experience and has shown leadership and compassion as an alderman who fosters a spirit of openness and collaboration.

Tramontozzi said it is important for the next aldermanic president/interim mayor to have integrity and respect for others. As an attorney, he said he understands the statutes of the Commonwealth. He also said he has what it takes to help the city as it continues to prosper while meeting the needs of an increasingly-diverse community.

Just before casting the first ballot, most of the aldermen spoke in support of the candidate they backed.

Lipper-Garabedian supported Infurna, she said, in part because she has marveled at Infurna’s level of civic engagement over the years. Also, Infurna was the only one of the four who flat out said she would not run for election to the mayor’s office. “She wants to create a level playing field in the (2019) election.”

Scott Forbes said he backed Zwirko because when aldermanic President Donald L. Conn Jr. was defeated for reelection in November, there was a need for leadership and Zwirko was the “only person who stepped forward. He was the only one who wanted to run out of the integrity of the seat.” Forbes said was confident in his vote for Zwirko back on Dec. 4 and nothing had changed.

Peter Mortimer agreed. “I suggest the president we elected on Dec. 4 for his talent, acumen and competence (is the right man for the job now). I suggest we stick with Mike Zwirko.”

Manisha Gadia Bewtra praised all four candidates for their deep commitment to the city. She then said she thought about who would approach the job as board president-interim mayor with the passion and commitment needed to keep Melrose a “city open to all.” In her mind, she said, that person was Zwirko.

Wright said experience is needed in a mayor, who he likened to a chief executive office running a municipal corporation. He said the voters of Melrose had backed Dolan for 16 years and deserved someone who could carry out his agenda for the next two. Infurna, he said, was the person best suited to be that steward.

Lemmermen said Infurna, in her opinion, was the one candidate who “could best serve beginning on Day One.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

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Infurna said Wednesday that she is retiring as a professional critical care administrator and that her obligations as mayor for the coming 23 months will serve as a temporary job in her retirement.

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In other business Monday, the aldermen adopted their rules of order for 2018.

Zwirko also initially moved to get rid of the annual caucus vote in December, but withdrew that motion. He said he would make another one as the year goes on.

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