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From City Hall to Town Hall: Morse to Take up Provincetown Manager Gig…

It’s been a hell of a year. (WMP&I)

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse appears set to end his tenure ahead of schedule. On Thursday night, the Provincetown Select Board formally chose Morse to be the next town manager. The Board also appointed two members and town counsel to negotiate a contract with Morse, which will seal his selection as manager. According to local media reports, Morse was among three contenders for the position that the Board unveiled at its meeting on Monday.

In December Morse declared he would not seek a fifth term. The decision came months after a bruising and unsuccessful primary challenge to US Representative Richard Neal. Morse’s retirement launched the city’s first totally open mayoral campaign since 2009—he had defeated an incumbent. Now the city could face a special election if officials take no action to cancel it as other cities have done this year.

“I can think of no better place to continue my service than in the special place that is Provincetown,” Morse tweeted. “I’m honored by the trust placed in me by the 5 members of the Provincetown Select Board this evening.”

The Holyoke City Charter requires a mayoral special election if more than six months remains in the term. Morse could remain mayor for weeks pending contract negotiations with Provincetown officials. However, it seems likelier than not he would go to P-Town Hall before the special election cutoff in late spring.

Todd McGee

Acting Mayor to be Todd McGee? (via Facebook/McGee campaign)

Whether a special occurs or the city holds off until November, City Council President Todd McGee would become acting mayor in the interim. McGee did not return a message requesting comment as of posting time. He indicated to Masslive he would reserve comment until speaking with Morse and addressing the City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

In Holyoke, a robust mayoral contest had already begun to form to succeed Morse.

At-large City Councilor Rebecca Lisi and at-large School Committee member Devin Sheehan had already entered the race. Former Morse aide Billy Glidden has formed a mayoral campaign committee, but is said to be no further than the exploratory phase.

Rumor has it that at-large city councilor Michael Sullivan (not the former mayor) is plotting a run. A Robert Prattico pulled papers per the Holyoke City Clerk.

While the Holyoke City Charter does command the city to hold a special if Morse resigns in the next few months, there is no guarantee that would happen. Boston and Lawrence have petitioned the legislature to void specials they would or could have otherwise held under their charters. The cost and complication of holding an extra election during the COVID-19 pandemic underpinned the request.  Holyoke could do the same if the City Council and mayor—whether Morse or McGee—so decided.

Now-former Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera stepped down in January to lead MassDevelopment. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is awaiting confirmation to become President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Labor. Last year, the Lawrence City Council approved a home rule petition voiding the special Rivera’s resignation would cause. The legislature and governor signed off on the change in January. The Boston City Council sent a similar bill to the legislature, which forwarded it to the governor Thursday. However, if Walsh resigns after March 5 no special would happen anyway.

Morse took office in 2011 shortly after graduating from college, becoming the youngest LGBTQ mayor at the time. His decision to call it quits in December was not a surprise. Well before the congressional primary, he had indicated to allies this would be his last turn at City Hall.

According to a report in the Provincetown Banner, that time in government was key to the Select Board’s selection. Select Board members in the seaside resort were hopeful that Morse, 32, could apply his experiences with diversity and inclusion to reach segments of the population that do not participate in town government.

“As we look at our town, probably one of the areas we have not been able to make real movement on is figuring out how to engage parts of the population that aren’t engaged in town boards, town governments or even having their needs heard and addressed,” said Select Board Chair David Abramson.

Friendly shores await. (via wikipedia)

Subject to negotiation, the job pays about $190,000 plus benefits according to the Banner.

That Morse would land a gig as a municipal manager is a reasonable next step for him. Former mayors of cities in the Bay State have often gone on to become town managers.

In an interview with WMP&I from December, Morse did not indicate any plans to leave early. Nor was he sure what he would do next. However, elective office or government service were on the table.

“I’m open to opportunities. Obviously, I have a passion to represent people and I’ve enjoyed being in an elected position,” he said.

“I haven’t had some sort of plan,” Morse continued. “I wanted to run for mayor. It was the best possible position to make the most difference and so I look for those opportunities in life.”