By Harry Kane
In a shocking turn of events, Sean O’Donovan announced his resignation as Ward 5 Alderman on April 11, citing family obligations and an increased workload at his law practice as reasons for retirement.
O’Donovan began his political career 19 years ago in the School Committee. In 2000, he became Ward 5 Alderman, and has served the community since, “with dignity, class and honor,” said Alderman-At-Large Bruce Desmond.
O’Donovan made many important decisions regarding the creation of city ordinances and use of city funds. “It’s hard to think of Ward 5 and not have O’Donovan attached to it,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston.
Over his years as alderman, O’Donovan assisted in the renovation of open spaces, parks and playgrounds. “I was involved in the voting of the Assembly Square initiative, and also the Union Square zoning,” he said. “We’ve had some positive revitalization in Magoun Square, and more is needed.” And, O’Donovan fought to keep the Benjamin G. Brown School “alive.”
“It’s time to start a new chapter in life,” O’Donovan admitted. “I can’t give the proper amount of time to the Ward 5 alderman’s position.”
The alderman recommended Ward 5 resident Courtney O’Keefe as his replacement. “She’s an activist, not only in Magoun Square and in Ward 5, but throughout the city,” O’Donovan said. O’Donovan explained that his mind is “at ease” with his decision, and that O’Keefe is “extremely capable.” He added, “She is someone who has ardently supported for the benefit of Ward 5.”
While most of the aldermen agreed that O’Keefe is a good choice, her confirmation was not accepted at the April 11 BOA meeting. Instead, the motion to appoint O’Keefe has been referred to the appointments subcommittee for further deliberation.
O’Keefe would be the first openly gay member on the board and the fourth female to be an alderman. O’Keefe is a lifelong Magoun Square resident. Her father even owned a sub shop in Magoun Square back in the late 70’s before she was born. And, O’Keefe has her own website called Ward 5 Online, which has been on the web since 2009.
“That was an opportunity for me to bring so much information from many different avenues here in the city,” said O’Keefe, about her Ward 5 Online website. “I used the meeting portal, I use the ResiStat blog, The Somerville News. It just brings it all into one place, one hub for Ward 5 residents. It was an unbiased approach to Somerville.” O’Keefe said she would continue the website, whether it be on Ward 5 online or on her own personal website.
O’Keefe was not upset after the aldermen postponed her appointment. “To get this nomination from him is an honor,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to the extension of the community path from Cedar Street to Lowell Street,” O’Keefe said. She’s also looking forward to seeing if they can do some zoning changes to capitalize on the space that Somerville has, find more viable ways to use CPA funding, and connect Magoun Square business owners. She is for increased affordable housing, backing local businesses, strengthening the local economy and keeping government transparent.
All of the aldermen voiced their opinions last Thursday evening. At-Large-Alderman Bruce Desmond said, “We have an unprecedented opportunity,” when referring to the possibility of appointing the first openly gay woman to the board.
Ward 7 Alderman Robert Trane did not want to debate the topic. He said that O’Donovan had put a name before the board and that the board should appoint her. “Any other way to handle this would be a slap in the face,” said Alderman Trane, when opposition to the appointment became evident.
Yet, some of the other aldermen had some issues with appointing O’Keefe on the spot, without first bringing it to a subcommittee for deliberation. Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente said, “I don’t like appointments.” Lafuente worked hard to become alderman and said that the constituents have a right to vote someone in. He added, “This will be the last time that I ever vote for someone to be appointed.”