The 10-members of the City Council, who failed last Thursday to pick a successor to former Councilor at Large Joan Lovely, took only two ballots Tuesday night to elect William Legault as the 11th councilor.
Legault, who writes our weekly A Voice in Salem column and is a lifelong resident of Salem, was sworn into office to fill the remaining year of Lovely's term. She resigned to take a seat in the state Senate.
After being sworn in, Legault said his late father "would be going nuts right now. He would be out of his mind."
He pledged to bring a new voice to the council and pledged his colleagues to offer common sense and sincerity. Prior to being elected to the council, Legault has served on several city commissions and task forces, including the Citizens Advisory Council.
The council voted eight to two for Legault on the 302nd ballot. The first 300 ballots, cast last Thursday during a marathon seven-hour special meeting, were mostly deadlocked at five votes for former Councilor at Large Steven Pinto and five votes for former Ward 1 Councilor Lucy Corchado.
On the 301st ballot, the first ballot cast Tuesday, Pinto's five supporters voted for him. Three of Corchado's supporters voted for her. Two voted for Legault.
The winner needed six votes for a majority.
After the 301st failed to elect either Pinto or Corchado, both candidates announced they would withdraw.
Before the first vote, Pinto announced that he would not seek reelection to the position of councilor at large in the fall, if appointed to the interim position. He hoped that would sway at least one of the Corchado voters to support him.
Councilor at Large Kevin Carr had made the issue of incumbency a paramount criteria. He did not want to support someone who would use the year of sitting on the council to run for election as councilor at large.
Carr said Tuesday that there were other issues that caused him not to support Pinto. He said the fact that Pinto came in sixth in the race for councilor at large in 2011 was reason not to back Pinto.
"The voters spoke in the last election," Carr said.
He rejected the idea that he was part of a faction on the council. "My conscience is clear," he said.
Councilor at Large Arthur Sargent, a friend of Pinto since high school, disagreed with Carr's reasoning. He said he felt the Pinto was the best qualified candidate for the appointment because of recent experience on the council, his commitment to city issues and because he came in a close sixth in the 2011 election.
Corchado pledged last Thursday to withdraw if Pinto did. After Pinto withdrew and left the chamber with his wife, she said she would keep her word.
Earlier she urged the council to appoint her to give Hispanics and women representation on the council. The 11-member council is all white and all male.
President Jerry Ryan, who was elected on Monday, thanked each of the candidates and apologized to each for putting them through the marathon session on Thursday.
"I am sorry," Ryan said. "I don't want to ever go through that again."
He urged the council to revise the process in the future for filling a vacancy.
"Since last Thursday a lot has happened," Ryan said. "There have been a lot of phone calls. This process needs to be looked at. We need to fix it."
Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski was the first among the councilors to speak. He said he had been told by other councilors that they would not vote for Pinto because Pinto would vote to make Sosnowski the council president.
"What is the other side of the story? What is the truth?" he asked, pledging to reveal the truth of what happened behind the scenes.
He said the truth is that Pinto and those who supported him, who have been labeled "obstructionists," voted with Mayor Kimberley Driscoll 90 percent of the votes.