James Leo Sullivan
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Former City Manager of Lowell
and Cambridge, MA; 86
NEW JERSEY -- James Leo Sullivan, former city manager of Lowell and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and retired president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, passed away peacefully at the age of 86 at the University Health Center of Princeton/Plainsboro, New Jersey on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
Born December 11, 1925 to the late James Christopher Sullivan and Anna Agnes (Kilmartin) Sullivan, James grew up in Somerville near Inman Square in Cambridge. His mother was widowed when he was five, and she was fortunate enough to be employed throughout the depression years. James was lovingly cared for by his grandparents, the late Patrick J. and Anna (Kelly) Kilmartin, originally of Doolin in County Clare, Ireland.
An exceptionally capable student, James graduated from St. John's High School in North Cambridge. He recently attended his 65th high school reunion.
In November 1943, with World War II underway, James enlisted in the Navy and completed radio school in Boston, MA at the former Somerset Hotel, near Fenway Park. He was assigned as Radioman Second Class on the USS Runels. James was one of several men sent ashore at Nagasaki, Japan shortly after the atom bomb explosion to evacuate Allied POWs from Japanese camps.
Following his honorable discharge, James enrolled at Boston College under the GI bill, graduating in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in history and government.
He worked for the Social Security Administration in Willamantic, CT, returning to Somerville in 1951 when he married his wife Anne. For the next six years, he taught 6th grade and high school history and government for the Somerville Public Schools, supplementing his teacher's income by working summers at Parks and Recreation and driving a cab. During these years, he also earned a master's degree in public administration at Boston College, making him a "Double Eagle".
In 1957, the late former Arlington Town Manager Edward Monaghan offered James a chance to move into the field of public administration as Assistant Town Manager, mentoring him for five years. In 1962, he was hired as the first Town Manager in Watertown, CT, after impressing the screening committee who hired him as having the "perfect temperament" to handle the rigors of town management.
The Sullivan family returned to Massachusetts in 1966 when James accepted a new position as the first Executive Secretary of the town of Milton. In 1968, he became City Manager in Cambridge until the spring of 1970, when he was ousted by a 5-4 vote of a new City Council. An outraged public formed a grass roots effort called SOCM (Save Our City Manager) but was unsuccessful at reinstating him. James taught a graduate summer school course at the Sloane School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while fielding daily phone calls from the late Senator Paul Tsongas, then a freshman Lowell City Councilor, who conducted a dogged campaign to convince him to manage the City of Lowell.
Due to Tsongas' persistence, James became Lowell's first professional city manager in Lowell in the fall of 1970. He secured federal grants from Washington and lowered the tax rate while increasing city services three times during his four years in Lowell city management, delighting taxpayers.
In 1974, a new City Council coaxed James back to manage the city of Cambridge. Robert Healy of Lowell, whom Sullivan mentored, came to Cambridge as his assistant, and succeeded him as City Manager upon James' retirement from public administration in 1981.
A new venue called for James' considerable budgetary, management and verbal skills in the private sector. He was selected to be the president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and served in that post for 10 years before retiring in 1991. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Suffolk University in 1991.
A lifelong Democrat, James enjoyed radio and television shows, especially debates, that explored the ins and outs of politics. He also was fond of watching sports events, especially the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and Boston College football, and his children and grandchildren's sports events over the years. He enjoyed playing golf (but not practicing enough) at Mount Pleasant Golf Club in Lowell, and in later years enjoyed playing cards almost daily with his friends at Mount Pleasant.
Throughout his years of public and private sector service, James was known as a straight talking proponent of fiscally responsible but progressive ideas. Never at a loss for words, he brought an arsenal of facts and figures to support his proposals. His family remembers him as a forward-thinking and constant champion of equity for all people.
James was most proud of his wife, children, and grandchildren, although he was characteristically prone to some exaggeration of their accomplishments.
He leaves his wife, Anne, an award winning artist and signature member of the Copley Society and New England Watercolor Society. He also leaves four children and their spouses, Dr. Maura A. Ammendolia and her husband, Anthony of Conway, NH; Mark C. Sullivan and his wife, Elizabeth of Acton, MA; Lianne C. Sullivan-Crowley and her wife Julie Sullivan-Crowley of Princeton, NJ; and Christopher J. Sullivan and his wife, Kristin of Concord, NH. In addition, he leaves seven grandchildren, Cara (Ammendolia) Faria and her husband, Adam of Westford, MA; Erin and James Sullivan of Acton, MA; Annie and Elizabeth Sullivan-Crowley of Princeton, NJ; and Jake and Quinn Sullivan of Concord, NH; as well as a great-grandson, Wyatt Faria, and a great-grandson expected in February 2013.
On Monday, October 1, at 2 pm, a private service will be held in the chapel at New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. A Memorial Mass to which all are invited will be held on Saturday, October 20 at 9 am at St. Mary's Church in Chelmsford, MA. A reception and celebration of life will follow at Mount Pleasant Country Club, Staples Street, Lowell, MA from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. All are invited to share their memories of James and his extraordinary life. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to the NH Veterans Cemetery Assoc. Inc., PO Box 626, Concord, NH 03302-0626.
E-condolences may be sent to the Kimble Funeral Home website at www.TheKimbleFuneralHome.com
Published in Lowell Sun on Sept. 28, 2012