Driscoll seeks support of Athol Dems

  • Members of the Athol Democratic Town Committee met Tuesday, May 10, to hear virtually from Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, one of six people seeking the party's nomination for lieutenant governor. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

  • Athol Democratic Town Committee Chair Margot Parrot, left, and committee member Joanie McPhee listen to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, one of six candidates for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine


For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/13/2022 3:06:05 PM
Modified: 5/13/2022 3:04:27 PM

ATHOL — Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, one of six Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor, paid a virtual visit to the Tuesday, May 10, meeting of the Athol Democratic Town Committee. Driscoll has been mayor of Salem for 16 years. Prior to her first election to that post in 2005, she served for five years as assistant city manager in Chelsea. Locally, she has received the endorsement of Gardner Mayor Michael Nicholson.

Following Driscoll’s pitch for the nomination, the meeting was opened up for questions from committee members and Joanie McPhee posed the most basic question for any candidate: “Why Lieutenant Governor? What actually does the Lieutenant Governor do that you would be using your talents there better than somewhere else?”

“I really feel this is an important role,” Driscoll replied. “What we’ve seen over the last two administrations is that the Lieutenant Governor has sort of been the liaison to communities, really working with our cities and towns to try and make sure their needs were being met, or at least to have somebody to call when they had questions of the administration. I think the job can be so much more than that.

“You think about any large organization, and that’s what the state is — delivering services, working to meet the needs of today with an eye towards tomorrow, trying to marshal our assets — it’s a big job and I think you need more than one person. Being a governor is a big enough job, but if you have a second that brings some experience, you can really partner and tackle more issues.”

The Salem mayor then enumerated some of the issues she feels are most pressing.

“Many of the challenges that face the Commonwealth — from affordable housing to transportation needs to infrastructure demands to public schools — they rely on action at the local level. The commonwealth doesn’t really build housing. The commonwealth doesn’t educate kids. The commonwealth isn’t going to single-handedly address climate change or fix transportation. It’s going to take action at the local level.

“I think having that experience really prepares you and gives you experience to help provide an assist to the governor. The formal role of Lieutenant Governor is chairing the Governor’s Council, chairing the Local Governors Avisory Council — I think those are important. The informal role is being a trusted confidant and respected partner to help achieve a positive agenda. I think that’s a skill set and a team approach that interests me.”

Committee Chair Margot Parrot asked Driscoll, who hails from the more urban and suburban eastern portion of the state, “How are you going to learn what the issues are in rural towns like ours, that are very, very different from Salem?”

“I don’t thinks there’s any candidate,” Driscoll said, “who is going to bring the degree of experience that is going to recognize the needs of all of our 351 cities and towns. There are different neighborhoods, different characters, different needs. What I see is the opportunity to vote for someone who’s plugged in. You want somebody who is really engaged. I really do feel I can walk into any city or town hall, meet with local leaders, and understand some of their challenges.

“I doesn’t mean I have all the answers,” she continued, “but that’s where people like you come in; really helping educate those of us who are interested in helping and want to help and bring a degree of experience to know what some of those challenges are.

“How do we work in concert with local officials to understand, what are the challenges in Athol? What are the opportunities in Athol? How do we maximize the opportunities and limit the challenges?”

Max McPhee wanted to know Driscoll’s stand on the issue of expanded east-west rail linkages, which currently terminate in Westminster, and expanding that service to Greenfield.

“Salem has benefited from being a high-ridership area for commuter rail, so I know the value of having rail service in communities. I also know that rail alone is not going to be the savior of any destination. We have rail in Fitchburg; that hasn’t transformed what is happening there, as an example. Rail alone did not transform what’s happening in Worcester, even though they have access to that. We’re building rail service to the South Coast — all investments I think are vital and that I can support.

“But we also can’t think that that’s going to be a cure for all ills. You still need to have strong economic prosperity in the regions that have rail. I don’t think western Mass. should be beholden to what’s happening in Boston to support their economic prosperity.”

Driscoll supports the development of regional economic hubs, more support for the local workforce — coupled with training and exploiting the assets that already exist in a region.

Other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor include state senators Adam Hinds and Eric Lesser, Bret Bero, former owner of ECHO Industries in Orange, state Rep. Tami Gouveia, and Scott Donahue of Melrose. Candidates must receive a minimum of 15 percent support at the state Democratic Convention in order to automatically qualify for the Sept. 6 primary ballot. The convention takes place June 3 and 4.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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