I was born and raised in Salem on North St. and attended St. John’s Prep in Danvers and Salem State (political science major). I have spent most of my adult life in government. At the age of 24, I was elected Ward Six Councilor where I served 2 terms and 4 terms as councilor-at-large (1985-1996 in total). After that I served for 14 years as an aide to former Congressmen John Tierney (1997-2011). I was appointed to the Salem Planning Board by Mayor Driscoll serving from 2011-2013.
I then started a successful small business which today is being operated by my daughter, Erin. My wife, Lisa and I reside at 11 D Russell Drive in Salem (Ward 7) and have been married for 35 years. Lisa is the co-owner of Baker School of Gymnastics in Salem.
Why are you running for Councilor and what skills can you bring to the position?
I’m running for the City Council this year because I’m at a point in my life where I have the time to do the job. I have a tremendous amount of experience working with the local, state and the federal governments. I also have built a successful small business and understand the sacrifice and risks that entails.
If I’m fortunate enough to get elected, from day one you’ll have a city councilor who understands municipal finance, knows the city well, will listen to all sides and has no other agenda other than do what’s in the best interest of the City of Salem. I’m not aligned with any group or individual and will be an independent voice listening to all sides of issues. I can bring people together - if they are willing to work for reasonable solutions.
I also want to be a voice for civility in our civil discourse. We live in a toxic political environment nationally and that has trickled down to the local level and it’s not healthy. People need to stop labeling others and be respectful of other opinions - even when they disagree. I have been involved in government and politics for a long time and understand how we got here but enough is enough. Elected officials and those who voice their opinions in public, including social media, should all respect each other so the people’s business can be done in a professional and courteous manner.
What are some of your proposed solutions towards resolving the housing crisis in Salem?
I’m pretty much in agreement with the overlay plan for the re-use of religious and municipal buildings for housing with a percentage to be affordable units. I also think changing the language of the current in-law apartment rules – from in-law and caregiver use only to allowing rental to others will allow for more affordable units to be created. I do think that the change should not be given by right but by special permit. It’s important that it does not become abused and turn single family neighborhoods into 2 family neighborhoods. I know that’s not the intent, but I think it’s prudent to shine some light on each unit through the special permit process. Both proposals are modest and will not create many units. They are however small steps that the city can take to help with affordable housing in what otherwise is market driven.
The other housing issue we need to start focusing on is affordable housing for our seniors and veterans. The current senior and veteran housing complexes are old and in constant need of repairs.
As a community we need to start advocating for new and more senior housing and working with the state and federal government to secure funding.
How do you see Salem impacted by the climate crisis and what new initiatives would you take to lead Salem's resiliency efforts?
Climate change is something we need to pay attention to in Salem because we are a coastal community and that is where we will be impacted most. Salem and the State have done a good job to date of identifying the dangers that lie ahead. Unfortunately, the executive branch of the federal government has decided that climate change is not real, so the states and local communities have been left to fend for ourselves. The economic impact will be enormously costly in Salem with a rising sea level and more and more flooding. I worked on flood mitigation issues with coastal communities on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley when I was at the congressman’s office and it takes local, state & federal partnership to get these projects planned and constructed. Without federal funding and participation in planning it’s going to be difficult for the state and local government to do it alone. Hopefully the federal position will change. I would be a huge advocate for federal funding.
The other thing we must continue to do is reduce our carbon footprint by relying less and less on fossil fuels individually and collectively. Solar, wind and other clean energy sources is what we need to be striving for.
Please outline some ideas you have that can enhance civic engagement at the city level.
I think Salem has more civic engagement now than it’s ever had. Every neighborhood has an association and I think the LWV has been doing a great job of being inclusive and focusing on important issues facing our city. The city has been more engaged through technology by using online surveys and has been generally good at communicating with the public. The Salem Police Department has done so as well.
One thing that has always bothered me is that we do not teach civics in our school system. It would be worthwhile to offer a civics program to the general public through community services. It could take any format; a certificate course, a speaker series or a workshop format. It could potentially get more people involved. Most of the people that are engaged in the various groups are already very knowledgeable of how local government works. Having more people understanding how government works at the local level will make them more likely to become engaged and more likely to vote as well.