By Greg Reibman
When Ruthanne Fuller takes the oath of office on New Year’s Day, Newton will welcome its first-ever female mayor.
But we’re not just getting a new mayor on Jan. 1. We’re also getting a new city council president, committee assignments and a dramatically different council.
The change to the city council is especially worth watching. Seven veteran councilors -- including several who held key committee jobs and were often the focal point during heated debates and close votes -- are being replaced by newcomers who are mostly new to city politics.
Those departing include Council President Scott Lennon and Councilor Amy Mah Sangilo, who gave up their seats to run for mayor, and Fuller. Two other veterans, Ted Hess-Mahan and Jay Harney, also decided not to seek reelection.
Two others, Councilors Brian Yates (who had held his seat for three decades) and Richard Blazar were unseated by challengers in contests that focused heavily on differing visions for Newton. Both Yates and Blazar (and three other unsuccessful council candidates) had the support of the anti-development group, the Newton Villages Alliance, a move that should call into question the group’s political clout.
Our new councilors are Maria Greenberg, Andrea Kelley, Andreae Downs, Brenda Noel, Rebecca Walker Grossman, Josh Krintzman and (pending the results of a recount) Chris Markiewicz. Downs has chaired the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee. Krintzman was chair of the Newton Charter Commission. But the others are all new to City Hall positions.
In mid-December, the new council will elect its new president, who in turn will appoint the council’s committee chairs and members, positions that can have a big influence on zoning reform, land use, budgeting and other decisions that will be critical to the mayor-elect’s agenda and Newton’s future.
Fuller defeated Lennon by just 304 votes on Nov. 7 in an election where the 42 percent turnout was two points higher than the last time the city had an open mayor’s seat, 2009 (when a relatively unknown Setti Warren defeated state Rep. Ruth Balser).
Voters also rejected a controversial charter proposal to shrink the City Council from 24 to 12 members by 1,659 votes.
Four of the Newton School Committee’s eight members will also be new: Bridget Ray-Canada, Anping Shen, Matthew Miller and Kathy Shields.