Reilly won’t seek re-election – Longtime official was the town’s first and only council president

Winthrop Town Council President Thomas Reilly (standing), with new Town Manager James McKenna, said he won’t be a candidate for re-election in November.

Winthrop Town Council President Thomas Reilly (standing), with new Town Manager James McKenna, said he won’t be a candidate for re-election in November.

By Cary Shuman
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Thomas Reilly, the first and only Town Council president since the town adopted the new charter in 2005, has announced he won’t be a candidate for re-election in November.

Reilly said he wanted to make his intention public now in order to provide adequate time for potential candidates seeking the office.

“This decision is an evaluation of what’s best for me the next couple of years,” said Reilly. “I just can’t devote the energy and time to the council that I have over the last four years beyond next January. There are lot of other things that I want to be doing that can’t be done if I’m tied up with this for the next two years.”

Reilly said it’s been a challenging year in town because of the financial difficulties and the cuts in personnel that had to be made. “It was an emotional time for a lot of people to see programs that they cared about and services that were important being placed in jeopardy,” he said.

At one point earlier this year, the town faced the possible closing of the public library and the Senior Center before private donors stepped forward to avert any disruption in operations.

Reilly took a major leadership role in the selection process for the new town manager. As dictated in the charter, the council president has the final say in appointing the town manager, and after working in coordination with the five-member selection committee and the Collins Center at UMass-Boston,

Reilly recommended hiring James McKenna as town manager. McKenna, whose appointment drew a unanimous vote from the council, took office as the new town manager on Monday, succeeding Interim Town Manager Larry Holmes.

“While all the other things [such as the town budget woes and the lead-up to the Proposition 2 1/2 override referendum] were going on in the town, we were conducting a search for a new town manager, so the time commitment was pretty extensive,” said Reilly.

In the new form of government in Winthrop, the Town Council president has a lot of power and is called upon to make some monumental decisions, such as the appointment of the town manager. As the highly visible leader of the nine-member council, Reilly also absorbs much criticism when things in town don’t run as smoothly as people would like.

“Every problem comes into my lap first, and dealing with it, I can’t commit to being able to do as much over the next couple of years as I can do right now,” said Reilly. “Looking ahead at the next six months, we have an additional cut of state aid of $772,000 that we’re going to have to deal with, a new town manager to work with, and if I were to run for office, I’d have to campaign for the office again for the third time in just over four years; and those efforts to run an effective campaign are just extremely taxing.”

Reilly said he informed his colleagues on the Town Council about his decision over the weekend and visited Town Hall to let department heads and employees know that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election as council president.

Reilly has a lengthy and varied history of involvement in local government. After graduating from Boston College, he spent two years in the Army. Upon his return to Winthrop, he was elected a Town Meeting member in 1970 and continued in that capacity until the Town Meeting was replaced in 2005. He was elected to the Planning Board in 1972 and to the Board of Selectmen in 1975, serving two three-year terms.

In 1987, Governor Michael Dukakis appointed Reilly as the Winthrop member of the MWRA Board of Directors. In 1993, Governor William Weld reappointed him to that office. He was elected to the Charter Commission in 2005 and has been a member of numerous town committees.

“I’ve served with some great people,” said Reilly, who served on the Board of Selectmen with Dick Dimes, Jim Reddy, Robert DeLeo, and John Van Dalinda during his two terms. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in the town through my years in town government.”

Reilly and his wife, Donna Segretti Reilly, have two children, Thomas Jr. and Kate, who both attended Winthrop schools.

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