By Joshua Resnek
It appears as though Essex Attorney James McKenna will be the man to lead Winthrop for the next few years.
McKenna, who worked as the chief assistant to the former mayor of Gloucester, as an assistant district attorney, and with his own successful private practice as well, is a well-rounded, grounded type who impressed the choice committee and town councilors.
Council President Tom Reilly would never have put McKenna’s name forward if he didn’t have the votes, so Reilly’s choice of McKenna is a fait accompli.
The one thing everyone in this town should know is that they are going to have to get behind this guy, or nothing is going to change here; and what was bad before the override is going to get worse.
It is likely that Reilly’s choice of McKenna came after consulting with members of the council.
And why not?
It is the council that McKenna will have to deal with in order to make things happen.
So Reilly made a consensus choice – a down the middle choice that won’t rock the boat.
In the short term, this may have benefits, as the town would do well with an era of good feeling between the townspeople, its leaders and the new town manager.
But it is likely to be a very short honeymoon between all the parties.
In the longer term, McKenna faces the realities of the perpetual crisis this town finds itself in from year to year.
McKenna will need to be more magician than attorney, more leader-like than rubber stamp, and more battle-ready than he might ever have imagined.
Running the Town of Winthrop is expensive, because this is a community without a tax base except for homeowners.
Running the town is made more difficult by the factions that exist, by long-running feuds that exist between certain individuals in and out of government here.
In Essex, where Mr. McKenna lives, about the biggest issue in the town from year to year are the bugs that come up from the low-lying, marshy areas, and which are fed by the changing tides.
You have to get used to the bugs or you can’t make it living in Essex.
In Winthrop, McKenna will find, you have to get used to the perpetual crisis of the town not having enough money to run itself.
It is the persistent, unnatural, debilitating need for money from year to year that causes leaders to come and go in this town.
They tend to come in with great hopes and ambitions, and then they become bogged down in small town politics and personalities – then, they throw their hands up and they leave.
McKenna looks and sounds like a good guy – a smart guy.
But he is going to find out that this is a tough town to run.
Winthrop is an overdrawn checking account with some very good people and with some very contentious people.
It makes for a very difficult mix.
Good luck, James McKenna.