Cahill, Slate spar as Beverly mayoral election approaches

Wesley Slate, candidate for Beverly mayor.
Wesley Slate, candidate for Beverly mayor.

As Tuesday’s mayoral election in Beverly draws closer, words have heated up between candidates Mike Cahill and Wes Slate, who are seeking to succeed nine-term Mayor Bill Scanlon.

In recent weeks, Slate has accused Cahill, a former state representative and Beverly City Council president, of not having enough management experience or drive to be mayor.

“He doesn’t have a strong work ethic, like paying attention to the details, sitting through meetings, doing the homework, being prepared,” said Slate, 63, a telecommunications manager and three-term city councilor who has been endorsed by Scanlon.


Cahill, 51, brushed off Slate’s comments in a recent interview and said his experience (10 years as a state representative, two years as City Council president) has prepared him to run the city of Beverly, which has a $106 million budget.

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“I’m confident that people understand how hard I’ve worked at all the jobs they’ve trusted me with, and I’m excited about the promise and opportunity to take Beverly to the next level,” said Cahill, a Beverly native who earned a law degree from Suffolk and serves as executive director of the Alliance of YMCAs of Massachusetts.

For months, Cahill and Slate have run their campaigns full time, knocking on voters’ doors and meeting with residents. Cahill finished first in the September primary, topping Slate by more than 1,000 votes, 2,969 to 1,879.

Michael Cahill, candidate for Beverly mayor.

Both candidates have similar positions on the main issues they believe Beverly faces. The two want to generate new tax revenue for the city, and both supported a recent City Council vote to rezone Brimbal Avenue that could lead to a $20 million shopping plaza development and a potential $25 million traffic project. Cahill and Slate also have pledged to help build a new middle school; complete the MBTA commuter rail parking lot; boost investment at the city’s waterfront; and add more businesses downtown.

Although their ideas are similar, their style is different. One of Slate’s campaign mottos is “Wes will do the work!” Cahill focuses on his State House and City Hall experience and his homegrown Beverly roots to reach consensus about the city’s vision for the future.


Scanlon, who is retiring as Beverly’s longest-serving mayor, is impressed with Slate’s work as a city councilor. “Wes possesses a terrific work ethic, an essential for success in the mayor’s job,” Scanlon said earlier this month when he endorsed Slate in front of Beverly City Hall. “He has put in endless hours over the past six years as a councilor to get up and keep fully up to speed on all key issues.”

Jim Latter, a Ward 3 city councilor, believes Cahill’s experience and his connection to voters will propel Cahill into the mayor’s office.

“He has such a passion for the city, and I go back to his experiences at different levels of government and his understanding that there’s not just one way to do things,” Latter said. “He’s worked around different leaders and it has helped him develop his own style. When you’re mayor, you have to lead the city, and I think he’s set his own tone as candidate.”

If elected, Cahill said, one of his first projects would focus on the city’s waterfront, where development has stalled in recent years. The waterfront, which sits at the southern entrance of the city, is a state Designated Port Area, which prohibits residential development and nonmarine use. Cahill wants to amend the designation and open the waterfront to restaurants, condos, and other businesses that could create new tax revenue and allow access to the shore.

“At the end of the day, that’s what people want,” said Cahill. “The people of Beverly want to have a waterfront to come down to and enjoy.”


Cahill also said he would look to save money by trying to regionalize some departments with other municipalities. “The budget crunch is here and it’s not going to go away,” he said.

He said his experience would also serve the city in finding additional aid. “I can take these projects from start to finish and find funding sources for them,” he said.

Slate, a native of Connecticut who earned degrees from the University of Connecticut and Wesleyan University, moved to Beverly in 1982. He believes the next mayor will have to find additional revenue to provide the services residents want, ranging from public safety to schools. Slate said the proposed Brimbal Avenue development could even lead to a larger complex than the Cummings Center.

“It could be as many as 7,500 jobs,” said Slate. “New growth is the key to being able to do all the other things in the city.”

Slate is hoping the complex draws high-tech, medical companies, doctor’s offices, banks, and restaurants.

Slate believes many of the cities’ departments are understaffed, and, if elected, he plans to add workers in public safety, public works, and information technology.

Slate was once president of a teachers union in Connecticut and later managed large groups in communications projects, including his current job at Crane Electronics, Inc. in Beverly. He helped revise and update some 400 pages of city ordinances when he was chairman of the City Council’s Ordinance Review Committee.

He said his six years on the City Council and working with other mayors, city councilors, and various government organizations has prepared him to be Beverly’s next mayor.

“I want to build a better quality of life here,” he said.

Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at srosenberg@globe.