Government of Chelsea, Massachusetts

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The city government of Chelsea, Massachusetts was incorporated in 1857. From 1739 to 1857, Chelsea was incorporated as a town. From 1857 to 1991 (with the exception of 1908 to 1911), the city's head of government was the mayor of Chelsea. The office of mayor ceased to exist after the city went into receivership. Since 1995, Chelsea has been led by a city manager.

Town government[edit]

Chelsea was settled as part of Boston in 1624 by Samuel Maverick under the name of Winnisimmet (meaning "good spring nearby"). In 1739, Winnisimmet, along with the settlements Rumney Marsh, and Pullen Point (excluding Hog Island and Noddle's Island) was incorporated as a town. Upon its incorporation the town named after Chelsea, a neighborhood in London, England. Under this form of government, Chelsea was governed by a Town Meeting and Board of Selectmen. On February 22, 1841, part of Chelsea was annexed by Saugus, Massachusetts. On March 19, 1846, Rumney Marsh and Pullen Point became a separate town known as North Chelsea. Pullen Point later separated from North Chelsea to form Winthrop, Massachusetts and the remainder of North Chelsea changed its named to Revere, Massachusetts.[1]

City government[edit]

Mayor and aldermen[edit]

In 1857, Chelsea was incorporated as a city. It was governed by a mayor and board of aldermen. The city's first mayor was Francis B. Fay.

Board of Control[edit]

On April 12, 1908, nearly half the city was destroyed and 18,000 people (56% of the population) were left homeless by the first Great Chelsea Fire. In May 1908 the Massachusetts General Court passed an act creating a Board of Control to perform the duties of the mayor and board of aldermen during the recovery. It also appointed a five-member School Committee to take the place the fifteen-member elected one. The board consisted of five members appointed by Acting Governor Eben Sumner Draper. Three were appointed to a term of five years, one was appointed to a term of two years, and one was appointed to a term of one year. The members selected to the two- and one-year term were subject to reelection by the voters of Chelsea. In 1911, elections were held for the board of aldermen and mayor. However, the Board of Control remained as a supervisory board. In 1912, the board was dissolved as a result of a referendum.[2]

Acting Governor Draper appointed William E. McClintock, a civil engineer and former chairman of the Massachusetts Highway Commission and City Engineer of Chelsea, Mark Wilmarth, a civil engineer from Malden, Massachusetts, Alton C. Ratschesky, a financier from Boston and Beverly, Massachusetts who was president of the United States Trust Company, Alton E. Briggs, a former teacher at Chelsea High School, and businessman George H. Dunham to the board.[3] Dunham and Briggs were subject to reelection; Dunham in 1909 and Briggs in 1910. Both were reelected. The board met for the first time on June 3, 1908 and McClintock was elected chairman.[2]

Return of mayor and aldermen[edit]

On December 12, 1911, Chelsea elected its first mayor and board of aldermen since the Board of Control took charge of the city government. James H. Malone defeated George W. Ford by 791 votes to become the city's first mayor in over three years.[4] Alexander Cook, Marcus M. Merritt, William S. Young, William A. O'Brien, George F. Henderson, Jr., James J. Kane, Samuel Markell, David Wilte, and William J. Williams were elected to the board of aldermen, and Cook was chosen to serve as the board's president. Malone and the board were sworn in on January 1, 1912.[5]


During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city was facing financial difficulties due to poor municipal accounting and unsound decisions made by the city's elected leaders.[6] By 1991, Chelsea was facing a $9.5 million deficit and was faced with the possibility of laying off 25% of the city's employees. A proposed $2 million Proposition 2 1/2 override was rejected by the voters, which prevented the city from raising taxes high enough to cover the deficit. The city was faced with the possibility of being annexed by Boston or entering state receivership.[7] On September 11, 1991, the state legislature apporved Governor William Weld's proposal to appoint a receiver to take over Chelsea's municipal government.[8] The receiver was granted almost unilateral control of the city, including the sole power to formulate budgets, issue bonds, and abrogate contracts. The office of mayor was eliminated and the board of aldermen was reduced to an advisory role. Weld chose businessman and former state Commissioner of Commerce, Secretary of Transportation, and MBTA Chairman James Carlin to serve as the city's receiver.[9]

City manager and city council[edit]

In August 1995, a new city charter was enacted. The new charter placed policy and legislative authority in an eleven-member city council and vested strong executive and administrative powers in an appointed city manager. The city manager is the chief executive of the city and is responsible for the day-to-day administration of city affairs.

List of mayors[edit]

This is a list of the Mayors of Chelsea, Massachusetts.

# Mayor Picture Term Party Notes
1st Francis B. Fay Francis B. Fay.png 1857 – January 4, 1858 Whig
2nd Hosea Ilsley January 4, 1858 – 1860
3rd Frank B. Fay Frank B. Fay.png 1861 – January 4, 1864 Republican
4th Eustace C. Fitz Eustace C. Fitz.png January 4, 1864 – 1866 None
5th Rufus S. Frost Rufus S. Frost.png 1867 – 1868 Republican
6th James B. Forsyth 1869 – 1870
7th John W. Fletcher 1871 – 1872
8th Charles H. Ferson 1873 – 1875
9th Thomas Green Mayor Thomas Green of Chelsea Mass.png 1876 – 1877
10th Isaac Stebbins 1877 – 1879
11th Andrew J. Bacon 1879 – 1881
12th Samuel Parcher Tenney Samuel P. Tenney.png 1881 – 1883
13th Thomas Strahan Thomas Strahan.png 1883 – 1884 Republican
14th Eugene F. Endicott Eugene F. Endicott.png 1885 – 1886 Republican
15th George E. Mitchell George Edwin Mitchell.png 1887 – 1888 Republican
16th Arthur B. Champlin Arthur B. Champlin.png 1888 – 1889 Republican
17th Albert D. Bosson Albert D. Bosson.png 1891 Democratic
18th Alfred C. Converse Alfred C. Converse.png 1892 – 1893 Republican
19th George H. Carter George H. Carter.png 1894 – 1895 Republican Elected as a Republican in 1894, and in 1895 he was reelected having been nominated on the Republican and Citizens Party tickets.
20th John C. Loud 1896
21st Hermon W. Pratt Hermon W. Pratt.png 1897 Republican
22nd Seth J. Littlefield Seth J. Littlefield.png 1898 – 1899 Republican
23rd James Gould James Gould Chelsea Mass Mayor.png 1900 – 1901
24th Edward E. Willard Edward E. Wlliard.png 1902 – 1907 Republican
25th John E. Beck John Edward Beck (Massachusetts mayor).png 1908 – June 3, 1908 Republican
26th James H. Malone 1912
27th Edward E. Willard Edward E. Wlliard.png 1913 – 1914 Republican
28th James H. Malone 1915 – 1916
29th Edward E. Willard Edward E. Wlliard.png 1917 – 1918 Republican
30th Melvin B. Breath Melvin Bernard Breath (March 28, 1881 – July 1, 1950).png 1919 – 1921 Democratic
31st Lawrence F. Quigley Lawrence F. Quigley.png 1922 – 1926 Democratic
32nd John J. Whalen 1927 Democratic This was the last of the one year mayoral terms.
33rd Lawrence F. Quigley Lawrence F. Quigley.png 1928 – 1929 Democratic This was the first of the two-year mayoral terms.
34th John J. Whalen 1930 – 1931 Democratic
35th Lawrence F. Quigley Lawrence F. Quigley.png 1932 – 1935 Democratic
36th Edward J. Voke Judgevoke.jpg 1936 – 1941 Democratic
37th Bernard L. Sullivan 1942 – 1947
38th Tom Keating 1948 – 1949
39th Joseph A. Melley 1950 – 1951 Democratic
40th Andrew P. Quigley 1952 – 1955 Democratic
41st Hugh McLaughlin 1956 – 1959
42nd Alfred Voke 1960 – 1963
43rd John J. Slater, Jr. 1964 – 1969
44th Joseph Margolis 1970 – 1971
Acting Charles W. DeIorio 1971 Became acting mayor when Mayor Joseph Margolis died in office
45th Philip J. Spellman 1972 – 1975
46th Joel Pressman 1976 – 1983 Democratic
47th James D. Mitchell 1984 – 1985
48th Thomas Nolan 1986 – 1987
49th John J. Brennan, Jr. 1988 – September 12, 1991

List of city managers[edit]

This is a list of the city managers of Chelsea, Massachusetts.

# City manager Picture Term Notes
1st Guy A. Santagate August 18, 1995 – June 30, 2000
Interim Andrew Maylor June 30, 2000 – September 7, 2000 Chelsea's Finance Director. Served as interim city manager after the city council became deadlocked between Jay Ash and Robert Markel.[10][11]
2nd Jay Ash September 7, 2000 – December 19, 2014
Interim Ned Keefe December 19, 2014 – July 20, 2015 Chelsea's deputy city manager. Became interim city manager after Ash became the state's Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.[12]
3rd Thomas G. Ambrosino July 20, 2015 – present[13]

See also[edit]

Chelsea Historical Society, Mayors of Chelsea 1857 – 1991.


  1. ^ Wright, Carroll D. (1889). Report on the Custody and Condition of the Public Records of Parishes, Towns, and Counties. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Company, State Printers. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b McClintock, William E. "The New Chelsea". New England Magazine. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  3. ^ "The Chelsea Board of Control". The Bay State Monthly. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Margins Narrow in Several Cities". The Boston Daily Globe. December 13, 1911. 
  5. ^ "Chelsea's New City Government". The Boston Daily Globe. December 25, 1911. 
  6. ^ Barnicle, Mike (September 8, 1991). "Chelsea: Mugged and abandoned". The Boston Globe. 
  7. ^ Rezendes, Michael (May 18, 1991). "Flynn receptive to annexing, aiding Chelsea". The Boston Globe. 
  8. ^ Howe, Peter J. (September 12, 1991). "Chelsea to get receiver". The Boston Globe. 
  9. ^ Biddle, Frederic M. (September 13, 1991). "Carlin takes the reins in Chelsea". The Boston Globe. 
  10. ^ Higgins, Richard (July 25, 2000). "Chelsea Council Deadlocks in Votes". The Boston Globe. 
  11. ^ Laidler, John (July 30, 2000). "Chelsea Stuck on Selecting City Manager". The Boston Globe. 
  12. ^ Daniel, Seth (December 30, 2014). "Top 14 Stories from 2014". Chelsea Record. Retrieved January 12, 2015. 
  13. ^ Laidler, John (July 14, 2015). "Former Revere mayor is new Chelsea city manager". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 19, 2015.