Letters to the Editor

An apology to the School Committee

To the Editor:

I would like to express my sincerest apologies to the Winthrop School Community in particular to the members of the School Committee  and those individual members who were the focus of a post I made on social media very early Tuesday morning. I lashed out at 4 members of the school committee in what very much sounded like personal attacks against them for a vote they took on School Committee business and that was very wrong of me. I was behaving out of frustration and disappointment and it was a very big mistake. I am very sorry to hear that this post has been viewed by students, particularly as I have advocated for more responsibility in using social media. And in this instance I behaved inappropriately and as a bully myself. I am very sorry and embarrassed and I hope the entire community can learn from my mistake.

I would request that the post not be published in the newspaper, as it is already being passed around the school community and I believe this would only do more harm and not allow the town to move forward.


Dawn Sullivan

Chair of the Winthrop School Committee



A Letter to the community in response to Councilor Boyajian’s paid advertisement

Dear Editor:

As most folks in Winthrop know, during my tenure as Winthrop Town Manager, I have tried to keep my distance from engaging in local political banter. That’s generally not the level at which I wish to discuss the administration of town government. And I always have that echoing voice of my father in my head warning me: “Jim, don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

However, Councilor Richard Boyajian’s paid advertisement in the Winthrop Transcript, and his continued diatribe of falsehoods and mischaracterizations in social media are  attempts to smear my character and that of my staff for his personal political gain, and such effluvia requires my response. This is Mr. Boyajian’s modus operandi: spew false vitriol couched as facts and provoke controversy for political gain.  Sadly, Mr. Boyajian reminds me of Winthrop’s version of North Korean President Kim Jong Un – two men shooting things off in a desperate attempt to find political relevancy.  How sad.

As far as the Winthrop Ferry goes, this is not MY ferry. It’s the Town’s ferry, and I have been given the tall order to make a go of it, a challenge that I have embraced, despite the cackles of the crows wishing its demise. Yes, it’s an easy target because it’s new and fledgling. Mr. Boyajian wants to claim it a failure after one year and kill it, and leave Winthrop without water transit to Boston for good. This, while he voted last year in favor along with a unanimous vote of the Council for a three –year approach to determine feasibility. Mr. Boyajian is now groping for issues to run on, so he picks the ferry to single out. He dismisses the fact that the town – for 16 years – has sought and won over $5 million in federal and state grant support to open and operate a ferry. Let me be clear – if the ferry fails, the town doesn’t get to keep it or the money it might get from selling it. Rather, it gets turned over to MassDOT and probably gets redeployed in Boston, and Winthrop has no future of getting water transit again. If MassDOT sells the vessel, the funds go back to those who gave us the money for it: the feds and the state. Also, as MassDOT officials have told me, per the oversight agreement, there is a post-audit risk that the feds or MassDOT as the pass through agency may exercise reimbursement rights for some of the ferry earmark funds that paid for the Terminal Building at the landing. (Federal Post-Audit Requirements 2 CFR C.II)

This year, we have attempted to be more entrepreneurial with the ferry by seeking partnership with Quincy and East Boston to grow our “catchment” area and create more ridership. We did this because at present the Winthrop population alone hasn’t generated enough riders and revenues to achieve break-even. This ferry business has to grow over time and will not happen suddenly – like Mr. Boyajian would demand. In fact, the ferries in Hull and Hingham took several years to reach sustainability, but now are considered valuable features in those communities because they offer alternative water transit to Boston. Time will tell if this model proves successful in Winthrop. Mr. Boyajian wants to castigate me for being positive about the gains we’ve made thus far.  Several Realtors this year have told me that the ferry carries a lot of persuasion to new home buyers purchasing homes in Winthrop. I think the ferry deserves a chance.

Regarding Mr. Boyajian’s complaint of my personnel moves I made last year, I did not promote my secretary to assistant town manager last year. I promoted her from Administrative Assistant to Project Manager – a proposal that was clearly spelled out in last year’s budget. Women deserve a chance to rise in this organization too.

Yes, I kept my Grants Manager on, despite Mr. Boyajian’s criticisms and attacks on his professional abilities. I am glad I did, or the town today would not have benefitted from $4,916,746 in community development, public safety, and Green Communities grants. (See attached grant awards). Joe Domelowicz has also managed the entire process for the creation and adoption of the Master Plan and the CDB issues over these past two years. We have made enormous progress in the potential repositioning of Winthrop Centre despite forty years of inaction. New zoning, new Master Plan, new parking initiatives, and more. Three substantive developments are now being considered for the Centre. The pace of our success has been nothing short of staggering. And this credit goes to my departments and the entire Council – not just to the one waving the flag.

As far as the morale of town employees is concerned, I am sure – as there always are in any large organization, a few cantankerous employees who seek to control their working environments through complaint and rumor spreading which Mr. Boyajian seems to take stock in and enjoy. But on the whole, I would ask Mr. Boyajian to find out how many employees did not get their merit pay raises or how many have left their jobs during my tenure? The answer is: very, very few. Those are not signs of a so-called crisis in morale. That said, being a manager of a large organization oftentimes requires the manager to say “no’ when necessary and “yes” when deserved. Also, a manager must set expectations for employee performance and conduct, and enforce town policy. Some say that the best one can hope for when managing a large organization is to be liked by a few but respected by many. Mr. Boyajian wouldn’t understand this challenge as he has, to my knowledge, never managed a large organization.

Yes, I hired the present facilities manager after a lengthy, open hiring process with six other panelists. I am glad I did, and I believe the School Building Committee and the School Committee all would agree that this was a great hire for the town. And yes, I did get him along with others in the department raises that this Council approved, including Mr. Boyajian, only when their jobs were substantially enlarged and changed to include the caretaking of all the school buildings, something that wasn’t previously under their charge and badly needed.

But what is most troubling for me is Mr. Boyajian’s alleged sharing of information that may be part of a Council Executive Session. As Mr. Boyajian knows, matters that are discussed in Executive Session are to remain confidential unless and until the matter is completed. A disregard for this important function of the Council underscores a lack of respect for Council decorum.

James McKenna,

Town Manager

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