Attleboro Mayor Brenda Reed

Brenda Reed, 14th mayor of Attleboro 1984-85.

When Gerald J. Keane decided not to seek a fourth term, the door was wide open to the mayor’s office, and a big change resulted.

Three-term school board member Brenda Reed, 37, who urged voters to “vote for change,” walked through that door and took over the corner office after surviving a five-candidate preliminary election, then a battle with City Councilor Hank Sennott, who was considered the favorite.

Reed edged Sennott with 52 percent of the vote to become the city’s first and the state’s third woman mayor.

Some analysts said Sennott’s attacks on Reed for her stand on abortion backfired.

During her campaign, she touted a long career in business management, as well as her municipal financial experience gained as chairwoman of the school board’s finance committee.

But change was the watchword, and voters chose it.

“I will work full time for that change, not politics as usual, but a new perspective,” she told voters. “We must take on the role of innovators.”

Reed ran on a four-point platform — reorganization and consolidation of city government, renewal of the city charter, cooperation between the school department and the mayor and a marketing strategy to sell the city to new business and industry.

While the program got her elected, it didn’t keep her in office.

She served only one term, and was ousted by political upstart Kai Shang, who fought City Hall over an urban renewal project that took the building in which his laundry business had been run for years.

During her term, Reed talked of bringing an entertainment venue to downtown to help revitalize the center, but that idea never caught on.

Shang’s supporters characterized her as “out of touch with the economic and cultural realities of Attleboro,” an idea that apparently did stick.

She lost her bid for re-election by 10 points — 55 percent to 45 percent — in what at the time was considered a stunning upset.

Reed went on to head up the New England Press Association and served a stint on the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority.

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