Greens make Mavodones Mayor of Portland
“Awkward” political horse-trading determines post
By Chris Busby
City Councilor Nick Mavodones will be Portland’s next mayor, thanks to Councilors-elect Kevin Donoghue and Dave Marshall.
Marshall and Donoghue were the swing votes in the city’s most hotly contested mayoral showdown in recent memory.
Granted, that’s not saying much – past mayoral selections have been largely a matter of course, the post determined by seniority on the nine-member body and amicable turn-taking. This year’s outcome was determined shortly before the brief caucus at which councilors select who among them will run the meetings, appoint the committees and cut the ribbons. The vote was unanimous, the comments brief and boring.
But the contest between incumbent Mayor Jim Cohen and recently reelected at-large Councilor Nick Mavodones was either man’s to win after last week’s election. Councilor Donna Carr, who would be next to ascend to the post according to the body’s traditional order, opted not to seek it, citing work commitments associated with her day job at UnumProvident.
There’s been a flurry of private politicking over the past 10 days, as sides aligned and all eyes turned to the two young Greens – either of whom, according to Marshall, could have given Cohen an unusual second consecutive year with the gavel. Councilors Cheryl Leeman, Ed Suslovic and Dr. Carr were presumably willing to support another term for Cohen; Councilors Jim Cloutier and Jill Duson were presumed to be in Mavodones’ camp.
So until Donoghue and Marshall – who are friends and former housemates – both agreed to support the now four-term councilor, Mavodones didn’t have the votes for his own second term (he last held the post six years ago).
To win the two over, both Mavodones and Cohen offered Donoghue and Marshall the committee assignments they wanted. Donoghue said he’s been assured seats on the Community Development Committee, the Housing Committee and the Transportation Committee, which he hopes to chair. Marshall hopes to chair the Public Safety Committee, and wants seats on the Finance and Appointments committees.
Each councilor generally serves on three of the three-member committees and chairs one. Mavodones is expected to make his committee assignments in the coming weeks.
Donoghue, the incoming District 1 Councilor (the East End, downtown and islands), said he decided to support Mavodones because he was elected by the entire city, not just the voters in one of the five city electoral districts. (Cohen represents District 5: the Deering, North Deering and Riverton neighborhoods.) Donoghue supports a change in city government that would allow voters citywide to elect the mayor. Unless and until he himself wins a citywide City Council race, Donoghue said he would not accept the post.
Local Green party politicians have made it a point of pride to champion open government and eschew the kind of backroom political deal-making that can put personal ambition over the public’s best interests. Donoghue, co-chair of the city Green Independent Party, said he did feel “uncomfortable” taking part in the horse-trading that led to Mavodones’ mayorship.
“That was awkward, but at the end of the day, I feel the rationale I chose speaks to ideals I hold for the city and where I want the city to go,” he said, referring to the elected mayor idea.
Mavodones, 46, is a divorced father of three, currently partnered with the principal of the elementary school on Peaks Island. He is the incoming president of the Maine Municipal Association, the statewide association of towns and cities that lobbies state lawmakers. By day, he works as the operations manager for Casco Bay Lines, the island ferry service that’s been rocked by internal discord and management unheaval of late. [Full disclosure: this reporter’s wife, Bollardcontributor Meghan Busby, works for Mavodones at CBL.]
Like Cohen, Mavodones has a reputation as a mild-mannered, thoughtful decision-maker. Cohen nominated him for the mayorship himself at tonight’s caucus, and the two amiably shook hands following the unanimous vote.