Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll Says She Has the Experience to Be Lieutenant Governor
Unlike most candidates in the Commonwealth's 2022 statewide elections, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll isn't a veteran of Beacon Hill.
For over 30 years, Driscoll has been an adept practitioner and executive of local government. And she wants to bring her pragmatism and innovation at the municipal level to the role of lieutenant governor.
In college, Driscoll worked in Salem's planning department, a position that she credits as her inspiration to begin a career in public service. Driscoll then went on to become Beverly's community development director, during which time she earned her law degree from Massachusetts School of Law.
After some time in private practice, Driscoll served as chief legal counsel and deputy city manager in Chelsea, helping usher the city out of receivership.
In her hometown of Salem, Driscoll was elected to the city council in 1999, and became the first woman to be elected mayor of Salem in 2005, a position she has held ever since.
"I think local government is the most important branch of government," Driscoll said in a recent appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight. "And that it really impacts your daily life, educating your kids, keeping your neighborhoods safe, investing in those places where you make memories.
"But I also know how critical it is to have state resources. And sometimes getting the state out of the way if we really want our communities to be successful. And I'm hoping as lieutenant governor to be a strategic ally to our community leaders."
Driscoll says her experience as an on-the-ground local elected official distinguishes her from her opponents who work in the state legislature. She added that as mayor, she spends less time on partisan issues and more time engaging with her constituents to make improvements in the community.
"When you're a mayor, the buck stops with you," she said. "You've got to balance budgets. I've managed a city through a recession, through COVID -- both response and recovery -- and there's just no hiding. When you are in a job like this, you're honored and blessed to be able to make decisions like this for people who rely on you -- neighbors, friends, who you are going to see the next day. So it tends to make you a better listener, makes you more accountable.
"I like to say it's part of the 'Get Stuff Done' branch of government because there's no Republican or Democratic pothole, there's just a pothole. You gotta fix it, you gotta address problems. And I think that's a skillset and a sense of urgency that is needed on Beacon Hill."
As mayor of Salem, a gateway city with a port and rail service to Boston, Driscoll explained what residents of Greater New Bedford and Fall River could expect with the arrival of SouthCoast Rail. She said that once the rail comes to the region, the SouthCoast should also look at alternative modes of transit to foster economic development.
"When you're a mayor, the buck stops with you."
"It was a key part of our growth," Driscoll said. "If you could live by the train and work in Boston, you can get to and from the city very easily. We also have a city-owned ferry because we know the importance of getting people to and from Boston is not just about commuters, but visitors and tourists and other folks who want to come. But rail has helped support growth."
Under Driscoll's tenure, Salem's tourism profile has grown exponentially. It has used its unique history surrounding the Salem Witch Trials to make the city a worldwide capital for Halloween and paranormal enthusiast-based tourism. Driscoll believes that similarly situated cities such as New Bedford can better leverage their historical and natural assets to foster a robust tourism economy.
"New England is unique," she said. "Massachusetts is unique, given our history, and I think we take it for granted."
Driscoll said she sees an opportunity to invest in tourism, promotion and marketing.
In her appearance on SouthCoast Tonight, Driscoll also discussed how her local government experience would complement gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey's experience in statewide office. She noted how she would be a steward for the burgeoning offshore wind industry, and discussed she would be looking for in a judicial nominee as chair of the Governor's Council.
Listen to Chris and Marcus' full interview with Mayor Kim Driscoll here.