Yvonne Spicer elected Framingham’s first mayor

(Framingham voters came out to participate in the historic election. Courtesy of The Framingham Source.)

Yvonne Spicer was elected the city of Framingham’s first mayor during an election held on Nov. 7. 

Spicer received 58 percent of the vote, winning the race with 9,129 votes. Her opponent, John Stefanini, received 6,455 votes.

Spicer, vice president of advocacy and educational partnerships at the Museum of Science and a former Framingham school teacher, campaigned as “The People’s Mayor” against lifelong Framingham resident John Stefanini, who formerly served as a selectman and state representative for the town.

Cheryl Tully Stoll and George King were elected the city’s first at-large councilors and nine other individuals were elected to represent their districts.

Spicer addressed a crowd outside of the Memorial Building in downtown Framingham after the news of her election broke. She thanked her “external family” of Framingham voters, as well as her biological family members, who were there to support her from states across the country.

“This is a new beginning for Framingham. This is the beginning that we get to set the course of where we’re going to go as a community,” she said.

Spicer added, “Framingham is an amazing place to live. I promise you, as your mayor, that everyone in Framingham has a seat at the table – that everyone feels their voice is recognized regardless of language, culture, immigration status. You belong to Framingham.”

She said she and Stefanini, who had already congratulated her, vowed “to work together, to bring Framingham together.” Spicer added she hopes to leave behind tensions between the northern and southern parts of the community, as well as debates about whether Framingham should become a city, to move forward as “one Framingham.”

During his concession speech at La Cantina, Stefanini said, “We are active and engaged in this community and we’re going to continue to be,” after revealing to his constituents in attendance and on Facebook Live that “we came up short.

“This dream doesn’t end tonight,” he said. “I want to give a sincere congratulations to Dr. Spicer and her team for running a winning campaign.”

Stefanini then added campaigns during Framingham’s transition from town to city were no different than those in the other 17 communities in the state that have made the transition in the past. “They’ve been contentious, very contentious,” he said.

Stefanini played a major role in writing the city’s charter and said he would continue to be engaged with the community despite his failed bid for mayor.

Stephanie Bennett, FSU freshman and intern for the Stefanini campaign, said she worries about Spicer’s lack of political experience and poor municipal voting record.

Bennett said, “I wonder how well she will be able to serve the city of Framingham seeing she hasn’t voted for over a decade and did not even vote in favor of the Framingham transition from town to city.”

Despite not supporting the transition from a town to a city form of government, Spicer was endorsed in September by Adam Blumer, a commissioner of the city charter. Spicer also won the endorsements of The MetroWest Daily News and Emily’s List, a national political organization that works to elect Democratic women.

In August, a Stefanini supporter, Jerry Desilets, wrote to The Framingham Source, a local news website, to raise concerns about Spicer’s voting record. “Ms. Spicer has a dismal voting record. She did not vote in any municipal election from 2004-2016,” said Desilets.

Many in the community, including preliminary candidate for mayor, Priscila Sousa, came to Spicer’s defense. In a letter to The Framingham Source responding to Desilets, Sousa said, “Our new government gives all of us a fresh start and an incentive to become greater participants in our own future.”

Aside from being the first mayor-elect in the new city of Framingham, Spicer will also be the first female African-American mayor elected by a popular vote in a Massachusetts community.

Framingham voter Allison Mevard said, “I would love to have an African-American woman as our first mayor.”

Polling locations reported higher voter turnout for this election than previous elections in the town. Turnout was reportedly 39.1 percent overall. In September, during the preliminary election for the vote held this week, turnout was reported to be 24.97 percent.

A.J. Mulvey, Keefe Tech School-Committee member, said he expected turnout to reach “50 percent” on Tuesday. Mulvey voted for Stefanini, someone he said he has always admired professionally.

“He brings people together,” said Mulvey.

Mulvey added the change to a city form of government will equalize representation between the different neighborhoods.

“That’s going to show our greatest asset – that’s our diversity,” he said.

Seth Signa, FSU senior and an intern for Stefanini’s campaign, said being a part of the campaign made him feel like a part of the community of Framingham, something students don’t always get to experience during their time at FSU.

“To actually go out and knock on people’s doors and talk to them made me actually feel that sense of community – which was amazing. John is a great guy who truly cares about Framingham and the people who live here, so I’m proud to say I did my part to try and get him elected,” said Signa.

Framingham voter Judy Lock said she is a teacher and voted for Spicer because she used to work as a teacher.

Lock said, “We need new blood here. We need change and we need women.”

Virginia Scott, alumna of the FSU class of 1948 and local artist, supported Stefanini and said, “From the day I first voted, I’ve never missed a vote.”

Framingham resident Matthew McQuade said he hopes the city has more “unity and forwardness.”

President F. Javier Cevallos voted ‘yes’ in April for the town to become a city. He said he supported the change because “there were not enough representatives from the south side of town in the previous precincts.

“Town meeting is a nice structure for small communities, but not for a large place like Framingham,” he added.

Cevallos said he hopes the new government addresses the city’s four underperforming schools right away.

David Smailes, associate professor of political science, supported the change to a city because it “makes sense for a population of 70,000.”

He added, “I am a firm believer in local government being accountable to its citizens, and a mayor/ council form makes that more likely.”

Like Cevallos, Smailes said he hopes the new leaders improve education in the city. He suggested “developing partnerships between business and both the K-12 schools and FSU.”

Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said she supported the vote to become a city in April because she believes a city will be “run better and more inclusive.”

She added, “It is important that Mayor Spicer listens to her constituents to learn their priorities and bring everyone to the table. I have always felt that there were two Framinghams. It will be her responsibility to unite the community.”

Sara Mulkeen, manager of digital communications and interactive media at FSU, also supported the town becoming a city. She voted for Spicer in the election and said she hopes the city’s leaders address education as well as “safety and economic development downtown.

“I’d love to be able to stay in my own city on a Friday night,” said Mulkeen. “I was surprised that neither of the mayoral candidates really addressed public safety, given that it was one of the top concerns that came out of a survey of residents regarding downtown,” she said.

FSU senior Emma L’Italien said even though she isn’t a Framingham voter, “I’m excited that we’re living in Framingham while it’s becoming a city.”

Howard Enoch, communication arts professor, also voted to become a city because “Framingham is changing very rapidly,” he said.

Enoch, who hasn’t shared his vote in past elections, said he voted for Yvonne Spicer. “From now on, I will proudly voice my support for the person I believe is ethical, honest and has the best interest of the community at heart.”

Enoch added, “Framingham has both a young energetic population and an older generation that is very frightened of change.  We must provide world class education for our young people … while protecting the older generation by assuring them that they and their needs remain the top of our top priority.”

Spicer will serve a four-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2018.

[Editor’s Note: Stephanie Bennett is a staff writer for The Gatepost.]

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