Aldermen presidency to change hands

NASHUA – Alderman Brian McCarthy appears to be on the way to becoming the next president of the Board of Aldermen, after current president David Rootovich decided to abandon his bid to retain the position.

The presidency will be decided at a caucus that has not yet been scheduled, but Rootovich said Wednesday that he was no longer in the running for the seat.

Rootovich’s close relationship with Mayor Bernie Streeter doomed his efforts, and he acknowledged he would be short of the eight votes needed to win the seat again.

Some board members believe his relationship with Streeter is “too close and not healthy for the board,” Rootovich said.

“They feel some new blood is needed,” Rootovich said, adding that no one complained about his performance in the position.

McCarthy is expected to receive the support of board members at a caucus including the newly elected aldermen. _Another vote will be taken in January, after the new board is sworn in, to make the result official.

McCarthy and Rootovich differed on what the outcome of a contested vote would be – either 9-6 or 8-7 – if one took place.

McCarthy said he looks forward to focusing the board on fulfilling the city’s goals.

To repair rifts on the board, McCarthy said it is most important for the aldermen to act on the board’s shared aims and “set a standard for our own conduct to make it less divisive than it was.”

The board presidency is the second most powerful position in City Hall after the mayor. The city charter gives the president the authority to assume the mayoral powers when the office of mayor has a temporary vacancy, because of an illness, the mayor’s absence from the city, or another cause.

The charter reserves the board presidency for one of the six at-large aldermen. The president also controls the aldermanic meetings, meets weekly with the mayor and makes assignments to the aldermanic committees.

Supporters of McCarthy commended him for his leadership experience and what they expect will be a strong voice for the Board of Aldermen.

“I think he’ll better represent the board,” said Alderman-at-Large David Deane, who has tangled with Streeter in the past. Concerns expressed by aldermen “fell on deaf ears” in City Hall, Deane said.

Alderman-at-Large Steve Bolton, who ran for mayor, said McCarthy has done a good job in other leadership positions, including heading up the Nashua High School Committee that has supervised construction of the $143 million high school project. He also has been a leader of the city’s effort to acquire Pennichuck Corp.

Bolton, who was ousted from the presidency by Rootovich two years ago, said Rootovich did not stand up for members of the board when they were mistreated by the mayor.

For Streeter, Rootovich losing the job is the loss of a “personal friend.” Rootovich was one of the first aldermen to endorse Streeter during his first mayoral race in 1999, and they campaigned together this fall.

Streeter said he would meet weekly with McCarthy once he takes the position in the new year, as he has done with all three previous board presidents during his time in office.

McCarthy described his relationship with Streeter as “courteous and professional.”

“We maintain separate opinions on a number of aspects of the city,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy, who is 49, has served on the Board of Aldermen since 1994. He has represented Ward 5 for 10 years and won an at-large seat this month, finishing second in a four-way race for three seats. Alderman-at-Large Jim Tollner topped the ticket.

Tollner, the vice president of the board, will run again for that seat. Work commitments prevent him from seeking the top seat, he said.

Division and infighting plagued the board during much of Rootovich’s tenure. Critics complained that aldermen who sided with Rootovich and Streeter got preferential treatment, while others got shut out.

But Tollner, who said he would have voted for Rootovich again, said the charge was unfair. Tollner pointed to committee assignments, where Rootovich’s opponents got their top choices.

“From the get-go, I think he was fair, reasonable,” Tollner said.

To McCarthy’s advantage, board members will not be distracted by a mayoral election that caused “some of the angst and discussion,” Tollner said. Bolton and Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson ran unsuccessful mayoral campaigns this fall.

Rootovich said his style of dealing with disagreements made it appear to aldermen that he supported Streeter much of the time. He said he preferred to work with people one on one, quietly, to settle disagreements.

“I don’t use the camera to embarrass anybody or make anybody look incompetent,” he said.

He defended his relationship with Streeter, saying the board president is almost a “deputy mayor.” It only makes sense for the two officials to work closely, he said.

Rootovich said he wants to remain a leader on the board, and he has asked to lead the Budget Review Committee. He said he might consider running again for the presidency in two years, depending on how the board operates in the next term.