SOUTH PORTLAND – Councilor Tom Coward is expected to be the city’s next mayor, after a caucus by the South Portland City Council last week.

In the informal selection process, the council voted 7-0 on Nov. 23 to select Coward to lead the council during the next year. The 54-year-old local attorney and real estate agent has only been on the council one year, but other councilors said the wisdom and leadership he demonstrated during that time led them to choose him as mayor.

“I’m looking forward to the challenges,” the mayor-elect said this week of his pending new position.

The council is expected to take a formal vote on Monday, Dec. 7, on Coward’s selection. That is the inauguration date for newly elected city officials.

Coward was the only councilor nominated for mayor during the caucus. Councilor Patti Smith brought his name forward. Tom Blake, the current mayor, seconded her motion.

Often, councilors select a veteran councilor to be mayor. Coward, of 17 Woodbury St., is a new councilor who was elected in November 2008, so is only a third of the way through his first three-year term. However, he formerly served on the city’s Board of Appeals for 12 years and Smith said he has showed “real depth” on the council.

Smith praised him for showing “balance and fairness and equity” and said that he has “kept the council in a positive frame of mind and working together as a team.”

“He’s really solid and I would feel comfortable with Tom as mayor,” Smith said.

Blake said that while it’s typically said that a councilor needs to serve a full term to become effective, Coward has proven capable right from the start.

“Very frequently,” Blake said, “I’ve been quite impressed by his knowledge and his wisdom.”

Coward said budget issues are likely to be challenging again in the new year, as they have been this year because of the economic recession. But he said he will be leading “a very good council” as it confronts such issues.

At the caucus, Rosemarie De Angelis, who was elected to the District 3 council seat on Nov. 3, took the place of Councilor James Soule.

Soule did not seek re-election, and his council term ends next month, when De Angelis will be sworn in Dec. 7 to take his seat.

As an outgoing councilor, Soule did not participate in the caucus.

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