Achieving a lifelong dream, city councilor Ted Bettencourt sailed to victory Tuesday to become Peabody’s next mayor – the third in just over three decades.
Bettencourt, 38, grabbed 63 percent of the vote to opponent Sean Fitzgerald’s 36 percent, besting Fitzgerald in every precinct save one. Only 1 percent of those who voted ended up either writing in a candidate or leaving the ballot blank.
The final tally was Bettencourt, 8,703; Fitzgerald, 4,980.
Bettencourt, a four-term Councilor-at-Large and private attorney, has topped the ticket every time he has run for office.
Accompanied on stage to exuberant cheers and by his wife Andrea and three daughters: Taylor, Allison and Avery, Bettencourt thanked his family, friends and team of supporters Tuesday night at the – most importantly, his family, who has been active throughout the campaign.
Bettencourt said his wife already has a long laundry list of things for him to take care of around the house now.
"I am honored and humbled to be the next mayor," Bettencourt said, speaking to reporters afterward. "When the numbers started coming in, I was so excited."
Bettencourt said celebrating that victory with his family closely surrounding him was important – he spent most of the night after the polls closed at his parents’ house. And one of the first things he’ll be doing before diving headfirst into the work ahead of him will be to take some time to relax with his wife and children.
As the song “We Are Family” blared from loudspeakers at the front of the stage, Bettencourt received hugs and handshakes from one person after the next packing the hall.
Bettencourt said he had received a call from outgoing Mayor Michael Bonfanti, but hadn't been able to listen to the message and planned to return the call as soon as he could.
A number of elected officials who supported Bettencourt through the campaign were in attendance Tuesday night, none more prominent than School Committee member Dave McGeney, who acted as the master of ceremonies once the results confirmed Bettencourt’s win.
“I just can’t wait to work with the next mayor,” said McGeney, going over to afterward to find the official results for the evening. He said he also empathized with Fitzgerald’s plight, having lost a spirited mayoral campaign himself 10 years ago to Bonfanti.
“I hope he stays involved…he should be very proud of the race he ran,” McGeney said, referring to Fitzgerald.
Several other elected and former officials were also in the audience, including former state Sen. Richard Tisei of Wakefield.
“I don’t think it was ever in doubt that Ted was going to win,” said former councilor Michael Zellen, adding he gives “a lot of credit” to Fitzgerald running and calling him an “upright” and “honest” person.
Ward 4 Councilor Bob Driscoll, who didn't have an opponent himself this year, was at Bettencourt's celebration party.
"Teddy's a great kid, he works very hard," Driscoll said, praising his colleague on the council for being "deliberative" and "collaborative" in all his work.
"He used to spend 12 hours a day shooting hoops at Emerson Park -- we knew he was determined," Driscoll added, laughing. Bettencourt did go on to become a basketball star both at Peabody High and in college.
The road to victory for Bettencourt started at least as far back as this past January when he . It was soon after five-term Mayor Bonfanti told the public in his State of the City address he would not be seeking another term, effectively retiring from public office.
Bettencourt has said, however, he already made up his mind to finally run for the job well before that. In recent public forums and debates, Bettencourt has said he takes much inspiration from late Mayor Peter Torigian, who served in office most of the time he was growing up in Peabody.
Bettencourt received a handful of public endorsements this fall, including ones from and , wife of the late mayor.
During the course of the spirited campaign between the two Peabody natives – Bettencourt and Fitzgerald – which started in earnest over the past two months, a number of jabs were traded aimed at each other’s record and experiences via press releases and a series of political forums and debates. Fitzgerald’s campaign took the more aggressive tone on that front.
Bettencourt said earlier on Tuesday that he felt both of them kept things civil and stayed above personal attacks, however, and reiterated his desire to work together in the future as friends who both care about their hometown.
“Sean is a class guy. We have to talk now that this is over,” Bettencourt said Tuesday night. He didn’t have to wait long.
Fitzgerald, his wife Jenni and campaign manager Speros Venios entered the hall a few minutes later. The two friends embraced and shook hands.
Fitzgerald told reporters outside he “wishes Teddy the best of luck,” thanking everyone from each campaign for putting their heart and soul into the race.
“You don’t have to be a mayor to make a huge difference in people’s lives,” he said – you just have to care deeply and be a good person.
Fitzgerald said he’s headed back to work in Plaistow, N.H. Thursday to continue his job there as Town Manager.
As Mayor-elect, Bettencourt will take over the reins from Bonfanti on Jan. 1 and will likely continue to confer with the mayor on important issues so as to smooth over that transition. Bonfanti, who had endorsed Fitzgerald, said early on that was keeping both candidates apprised of key issues facing the city.
Despite the seeming high level of interest in the race between the two men, the official turnout at the polls Tuesday was only 40 percent.
City Clerk Tim Spanos, who had predicted 58 percent, was puzzled Tuesday night on the low turnout. He said he wasn’t sure why such a high profile race didn’t bring more voters out.
MayorCandidate Total Votes Percentage Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr.
Sean R. Fitzgerald
4980 34% Blanks and Write-ins