May 17—Former Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr. has been appointed the city's temporary chief administrative officer.
Cousins, a Newburyport resident, will be specifically helping Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken with the budget "and whatever she needs me to help her with," he told the Times on Monday while driving to Gloucester to meet with the mayor.
"While this is a temporary position, Frank's impressive background within municipal and local government will help the administration finalize our FY22 budget and ensure a smooth and successful summer season, too," Romeo Theken wrote in a letter to the City Council and staff on Monday.
She noted that Christopher Sicuranza will continue to work in his role as assistant to the CAO.
The extra help in City Hall is needed as Nicole Kieser left her role as interim chief administrative officer on May 7.
Kieser was appointed as interim by Romeo Theken on Jan. 26 after Vanessa Krawczyk resigned from her position as interim CAO on Jan. 25. Krawczyk took on the role in June 2020 when Destino officially retired from the position. Kieser was the third person to fill the role in a little more than nine months.
"Across the ever changing nature of managing a pandemic, it is difficult to conduct proper candidate search committees and talent outreach — which is true of both public and private sectors," Romeo Theken wrote to the Times on Monday. "We will continue to work with our Personnel Department to continue our outreach, but we are thrilled to welcome the support of our latest temporary officer to help us finalize the budget and ensure a successful summer season, too.
Cousins will have a 90-day appointment and will be sworn in at the City Clerk's office in short order.
Cousins, 63, is no stranger to politics as for 20 years he was the Essex Country sheriff — the first African-American to serve as sheriff in Massachusetts. He also served as Newburyport city councilor and state representative.
He went on to become the president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce,
When Cousins left his position at the chamber this past February, the Newburyport Daily News reported Mark Griffin, a Newburyport attorney and chair of the chamber's board of directors, as saying that Cousins' departure was "a huge loss for the chamber. I'm optimistic we'll find a good candidate but we won't find anyone who has the kind of skills Frank has."
Griffin noted Cousins' dedication to the chamber and community, explaining that he "showed leadership at a time where the chamber needed it."
"The pandemic closed businesses and Frank took the lead and made sure all businesses were in contact with municipal and state officials. He advocated for them with those officials and helped with the reopening."
Not all of his time within the public eye was rosy, however, as Cousins was fined for campaign violations in 2011.
In 2011, The Salem News reported that Cousins, who was sheriff at the time, was fined $10,000 by state elections regulators for committing 102 separate violations involving the money orders and corporate contributions during his re-election campaign. An additional number of violations were noted for accepting cash from unnamed donors.
Admitting to the grounds of the fines, Cousins told The Salem News that "we made mistakes" and "I'm going to make sure we don't make this mistake again."
Sticking to that promise, Cousins enters into this new temporary role ready to roll up his sleeves and help a city that is in the midst of transition.
"I am looking forward to it as I like the city and like the people," Cousins said.
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or email@example.com.