Women bringing a new look to Peabody politics – Itemlive – Daily Item


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PEABODY — Call it a changing of the guard — something City Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin and former Councilor Judy Selesnick have been waiting for for a very long time.
For the past 14 years, Manning-Martin has been the only woman on the 11-member City Council. When the council holds its first meeting of 2022 on Thursday at Wiggin Auditorium, she will no longer be in a league of her own, thanks to voters who sent a message of change at last November’s election.
Voters said hello to a couple of fresh female faces in Stephanie Peach (Ward 3), a 2007 Peabody High graduate, and former Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and City Treasurer Julie Daigle (Ward 4). They also said goodbye to James Moutsoulas (Ward 3) and Ed Charest (Ward 4). 
“Across the country, women represent 51 percent of the population but have only 30-percent representation on municipal boards, and Peabody has been a blatant outlier in that, prior to this past election, with a paltry 9 percent for the last 16 years,” Manning-Martin said.  
“Women can run for office, but the power lies with the voters to elect those who will represent their interests and speak for them. The voters of Peabody have spoken; they want change and they have made that clear.”
Selesnick, who served from 1994-2007, said she doesn’t remember the years, but her time serving alongside Judy Buckley and Joyce Speliotis was the first time the council had three female members. To the best of Manning-Martin’s memory, prior to the 2021 election, there had been only seven women elected as councilors.
Selesnick said she knows exactly what Manning-Martin has gone through.
“Most of the time I was the only female, so I know exactly what it’s been like for Anne,” she said. “At times, I was treated differently because I was a woman. I’m very happy to see two more female councilors because this council has needed more estrogen for a long time.
“These three women add a tremendous amount of skill and talent to the council. Anne is tough and independent and has set a tremendous example for the city. Julie knows the city so well and will make really good decisions. Stephanie is very smart as well; she seems intent on being objective and doing the right thing for the right reasons. The council needs more of that.”
Daigle, the general manager at Mills 58, said while the women have strong independent voices, they may not align on every issue, but together, they will bring fresh voices.
“I know that Anne knows a lot of history and background and always does her research, which is so important,” Daigle said. “We all can learn from that, but the bottom line is I think we will all be open-minded and bring new perspectives, which is long overdue.”
Manning-Martin, a deputy superintendent of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, is the longest-serving councilor on the council, now in her eighth term. 
All three women campaigned on quality-of-life issues, a message that resonated with voters. Manning-Martin said she received a strong mandate with more than 60 percent of the votes, while Peach’s and Daigle’s mandates were also strong at 61 and 54 percent, respectively.
Peach, a national accounts credit analyst at UniFirst Corporation, former legislative aid and candidate for state representative, said she ran because she saw an opportunity to make a difference.
“I wasn’t thinking about gender representation when I decided to run,” she said. “But when going door to door during the campaign and after the election was over, I heard from many residents how they are excited to have more women on the council.
“I’m very excited. I think there is a good mix of councilors with a lot of institutional knowledge along with new councilors who can offer new perspectives. Based on Council President Ryan Melville’s inaugural speech, we will get a lot of good work done for the people of Peabody.”
Daigle served in three city administrations during her 20-year public-service career.
“I believe that, and my experience in the private sector, will make me an effective city councilor and a strong voice for the ward,” Daigle said. “I’m still feeling the excitement from the inauguration and can’t wait to get to work. We have a lot to do.”
Manning-Martin said she is mindful of the advice Abigail Adams gave to her husband, John, in 1776.
“She warned him that ‘If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.’
“Perhaps this is Peabody’s rebellion; regardless, I welcome the message from residents and hope all the boards in our city will soon be equally representative of those they serve.”
Selesnick summed up her feelings about the trio.
“They are strong, independent, intelligent and very talented,” Selesnick said. “I’m so excited about them that I believe they will get me back to watching council meetings on a regular basis again.”
PEABODY — Now this was a basketball game.  You had two teams playing uptempo hoops, running up and down the

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