Longtime New Bedford City Councilor Debora Coelho was re-elected last November and sworn in this past January for a two-year term. She's decided to quit – sort of.

This week, journalist Kiernan Dunlop of the Standard-Times reported the story of Councilor Coelho was announcing her retirement. Having local journalists covering the political beat is important.

Councilor Coelho has decided she will be retiring at the end of her term. She will serve the next two years on the council and then not seek another term. She has served for 16 years on the council. She is citing a need to help her husband take care of his sick mother overseas as a reason for not running again for office.

But why announce it now?

Councilor Coelho makes the altruistic argument that she wants people to know there will be an opening on the council and give those who want to run an opportunity to put together a campaign for the open seat. That's very kind of her.

By announcing it now, she has also limited her ability to function as a member of the council because everyone knows she won't be around in the next term. A two-year lame duck in a position that is already limited in power.

There is also the possibility that this early announcement is an attempt to avoid being criticized by residents, councilors, and the media for her future attendance or lack thereof. Coelho will be an at-large councilor for the next two years and collect tens of thousands of dollars in salary and potentially in benefits regardless of her attendance at meetings.

The councilor will have a hard time doing her job for the folks in New Bedford if she is over in Portugal helping her mother-in-law. Should she find herself in that position, she should do the right thing and resign her seat and give the city an opportunity to have a fully functioning city council.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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