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Seven vie to become Newton’s next mayor

Newton City Hall

As outgoing Newton Mayor Setti Warren sets his sights on a run for governor, seven candidates have lined up for a chance to replace him at City Hall this fall.

The candidates who will appear on the ballot include three city councilors — Ruthanne Schwartz Fuller, Amy Mah Sangiolo, and Scott Lennon — along with Al Cecchinelli, a member of the city’s local Republican committee; plus three residents with little experience inside City Hall: Eli Katzoff, Geoffrey Woodward, and Richard Saunders.

Warren, who took office in 2010, announced earlier this year he wouldn’t run for a third term.

The candidates will appear on the Sept. 12 ballot for the municipal preliminary election. The two mayoral candidates with the most votes will appear on the ballot for the Nov. 7 general election.


The city councilors — Fuller, Sangiolo, and Lennon — all argued they would promote better engagement between residents and city officials on issues like development and zoning. They also all called for better services for local seniors, whose population is expected to expand in coming years.

“We certainly need a mayor who will listen carefully and be committed to [the] core goal of being an inclusive and diverse city,” said Fuller, 59, who is currently an at-large councilor from Ward 7 and has served on the panel since 2010.

She said the city needs to develop master plans for each of its village centers that take into account issues such as transportation, economic growth, and housing.

She said as mayor she would prioritize budgets for students, seniors, and those with special challenges.

Fuller said the city must honor commitments to retired city employees.

“We owe these retirees these funds and we do need a plan to fund it,” said Fuller.

Sangiolo, 52, an at-large councilor from Ward 4 who took office on the council in 1998, said the city needs to step up in prioritizing the environment, including efforts to move its fleet to electric vehicles and divesting itself from fossil fuel companies.


“Newton can be a real leader on the environment,” said Sangiolo, who is also an environmental attorney.

She is also concerned about how development in Newton has become a divisive issue between builders, city officials, and residents. As mayor, she would work to build collaboration.

“I’m the best candidate to bring all the parties together,” Sangiolo said.

She also said she would be a strong advocate for the city’s school system and would participate on the School Committee as mayor.

“I want to be a much more active member than the previous mayors have been,” she said.

Lennon, 47, has served as a city councilor from Ward 1 since 2002 and as the council president for eight years. He currently works at the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, where he helps oversee a $70 million budget.

He said he’d continue the city’s efforts to bolster affordable housing and prioritize support for academic programs in the city’s school system.

“You need someone who has an eye on the big picture... you need someone with that experience,” he said.

Lennon said he would also step up efforts to communicate with residents on ongoing projects, such as the city’s current reworking of the local zoning code.

“As mayor I’d like to get people in on the front end, and work collaboratively,” Lennon said.


Cecchinelli, 52, is an attorney and member of the Newton Republican City Committee and the Newton Taxpayer Association.

Cecchinelli points to the city’s finances and said major issues facing the city are the costs of employee pensions and post-employment benefits.

Cecchinelli said the city should take steps such as crafting contracts with employees that reduce costs, along with seeking lower-cost ways of delivering health care to workers and their families.

“I think we need to tighten our belt,” Cecchinelli said.

Woodward, 51, is running to promote science education in local schools and cultivate a pro-business atmosphere for Newton.

Woodward holds a doctorate in physiology from Cambridge University and currently works as a grant writer for the US Department of Health and Human Services.

He said the city should encourage a lifetime interest in the sciences, and work to encourage major companies like Microsoft and Apple to locate offices in Newton.

“The most patriotic thing you can do for your country is innovation and science,” Woodward said.

Katzoff, 32, said he wants to serve as mayor to build “a more caring, connected community.”

Katzoff owns a one-person video production company, and he works with contractors on producing content for nonprofits and other groups.

He said the city should take advantage of existing community spaces, and allow residents to enjoy their city through social events.

Katzoff grew up in Newton, and would prioritize keeping the historic character of the city’s housing. He said he would look for ways to add affordable homes without seeking large-scale developments.


“I am going to make this place something that you are going to be proud of,” Katzoff said.

Saunders, 61, is a fiction writer with a series of small-market books that mix surrealism and autobiography.

Saunders opposes a proposed change in the city’s charter that would mean ward councilors would be voted in by citywide elections. He also argues that the city should find ways of cutting costs and ease tax burdens on residents.

“I’m pro-development and [for] finding innovative solutions for multi-unit housing and affordable housing in Newton,” Saunders said.

John Hilliard can be reached at