A city mourns former mayor

McManus known for local touch

McManus (at left) ‘loved Lynn with all his heart,’ said Salvatore Migliaccio. ‘I think he felt he had some unfinished business.’ McManus (at left) ‘loved Lynn with all his heart,’ said Salvatore Migliaccio. ‘I think he felt he had some unfinished business.’
By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / July 16, 2009
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When he was mayor of Lynn, Patrick J. McManus once visited 67 block parties over a Fourth of July weekend. This year, McManus visited 45 parties as he made a comeback bid for mayor, eight years after he left City Hall.

“He was a neighborhood mayor,’’ said Salvatore Migliaccio, a former City Council president during McManus’s tenure. “He clearly knew you had to be in the neighborhood to know what is going on.’’

But McManus, who died July 10, just one month after formally announcing his candidacy for mayor, wasn’t only concerned with trash pickup, traffic, and crime. During his 10 years as mayor, from 1992 to 2002, he raised the profile of Lynn, the largest city on the North Shore with about 90,000 residents.

McManus traveled to Washington to help lobby for Friendship, the replica of a 19th-century merchant ship now docked at Derby Wharf in Salem. He stood beside President Bill Clinton on the south lawn of the White House, watching proudly as Lynn police officers hired with federal community policing dollars were sworn into office.

A trustee of the US Conference of Mayors, McManus served as chairman of the group’s Urban Water Council, which helped to shape national water policy.

He traveled to China - the homeland of four of his five adopted children - to study urban water and sewer infrastructure.

“Pat had the ability to look into the future,’’ said Edward J. Clancy Jr., the city’s current mayor. “Just look at his interest in China, the idea of opening up those ties. Today, China is an economic engine.’’

McManus, who was 54, was to be buried yesterday following a Mass at St. Pius V Church, his boyhood parish. City Hall was closed yesterday, and flags throughout Lynn flew at half staff. An honor guard of Lynn fire, police, and elected officials was also planned for his funeral, Clancy said.

McManus, the son of a teacher and a homemaker, served on the City Council from 1985 until he was elected mayor in 1991. He was found dead in his Baltimore Street home after being stricken while working in his second-floor office. The cause of death is not known.

He was married to Debra (Dorgan); his five children range in age from 12 to 21.

While mayor, McManus also served as chairman of the School Committee at a time when the state’s education reform law took effect. He oversaw the expansion and renovation of the city’s three public high schools, with the state picking up 90 percent of the cost. “He saw that the state funding was available and said, ‘Let’s go for it,’ ’’ Migliaccio said.

Other major projects during his tenure included replacement of old water and sewer lines to comply with a federal mandate. He also combined the plumbing, electrical, and building departments into a single inspectional services division, Migliaccio said.

After deciding not to seek reelection, McManus worked as a consultant on water and sewer issues. A certified public accountant, he also served on the boards of private businesses, many of which had ties to China. Earlier this year, McManus decided to reenter public life, formally announcing his candidacy for mayor on June 9.

“He loved Lynn with all his heart,’’ said Migliaccio, as he prepared flower arrangements for McManus’s funeral. “I think he felt he had some unfinished business.’’

Clancy, who succeeded McManus as mayor, expected a spirited race. “It would have been an epic battle between two old horses,’’ said Clancy, a former state senator who served with McManus on the City Council. “We had chatted since he announced. There was no antipathy. . . . Pat never hurt anyone in his life.’’

McManus, who as mayor forged strong ties to city unions, had won the backing of Lynn Fire Fighters Local 739. “He was really a champion for us,’’ said Matt Reddy, the union president.

But McManus was sometimes criticized for being too generous to the union, which played a key role in electing him mayor. Contract provisions, such as guaranteed overtime, later sparked legal battles between Clancy and the firefighters.

Reddy said the contracts also benefited taxpayers. “The reality was, the only reason we had guaranteed overtime was to keep all our apparatus open,’’ said Reddy, who was appointed to the fire department by McManus 13 years ago. “He was concerned for the safety of our residents.’’

During the end of his last term as mayor, McManus was faulted for frequent travel for the Conference of Mayors. Migliaccio, who as City Council president served as acting mayor in his absence, said the criticism was misplaced. “We talked about how people felt,’’ Migliaccio said. “But I always knew where he was. He was out there, getting federal funding for water and sewer, and other projects.’’

McManus hoped to regain the mayor’s office the old-fashioned way: He opened a campaign headquarters in Wyoma Square. He walked neighborhood streets, knocking on doors. And he hit every block party possible over the holiday weekend.

“He was that type of guy,’’ Migliaccio said. “Pat loved those community activities that brought people out of their front doors.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at