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Kim Driscoll, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts

As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Kim Driscoll, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts.

Kim Driscoll won an underdog race to become Salem’s first woman Mayor in 2006, topping the ticket in a three-way race against a sitting City Councilor-at-Large and the incumbent Mayor.

Kim took office at a time when Salem was in tough shape. There were record deficits, poor financial management, and a declining bond rating. Kim turned those deficits into record reserve funds and saved taxpayers’ money by enhancing city efficiencies, broadening the use of 21st Century technology, reforming pensions and public health insurance programs, bidding public contracts, and revitalizing Salem’s downtown.

Working collaboratively with state officials and local partners, Kim helped secure sizable public and private investments, including a new MBTA train station, a new state courts complex, and a new ferry and waterfront port at Salem Wharf. The city is now a national leader in the offshore wind sector, serving as the primary marshalling port for the forthcoming Commonwealth Wind project that will serve residents across Massachusetts. 

In Salem, the city adopted a climate change mitigation plan and took steps to lower its own carbon footprint – steps that also helped the city and residents save on their electric bills. 

A proud parent of children who attended Salem Public Schools, Kim has also chaired the Salem School Committee as Mayor, and helped push for collaborations and strategies to improve Salem’s schools and for added investments to support teachers and students. 

Understanding the importance of action toward substance abuse disorder, Kim spearheaded a specialized curriculum in the middle school grades to combat the scourge of opioids and created innovative intervention programs to help those suffering from addiction.

From one of the first fully inclusive LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinances in Massachusetts and a 100 percent score on the Municipal Equality Index, to major investments in veterans’ benefits, to standing up for immigrants, to the first age-friendly action plan certified in Massachusetts and the long fought-for new senior center, Salem under Mayor Driscoll has been – first and foremost – about including and welcoming everyone.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Kim tells us about her 16-year career as Mayor of Salem, Mass (01:28)
  • Kim’s hopes for the office of Lieutenant Governor (04:16)
  • Kim’s areas of expertise, and how Massachusetts handled the Pandemic (06:01)
  • Housing, Transportation, and Early Childhood Education (09:12)
  • Bike Paths and Cannabis funding public transportation (12:22)
  • Kim’s proudest accomplishments as Mayor (14:04)
  • Closing Statement (17:21)

Connect with Kim Driscoll

For more information on all things Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I want to introduce you to a new segment of our show the Meet the candidate series. It is intended to give candidates running for public office, a platform in a voice so voters know who is running for office, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if they are so fortunate to be elected. So please feel free to share these interviews with your family and friends and citizens around this fine land because an educated and informed population is essential for a healthy democracy. And isn’t that what we all really want a healthy democracy? Enjoy the interviews stay healthy. My name is Jimmy tingle and I approve this message. Today’s guest is none other than the mayor of Salem, Massachusetts. Kim Driscoll, currently a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of the fine state of Massachusetts Kim Driscoll, Madam Mayor, welcome to the show. How are you today?

Kim Driscoll 1:02
I’m doing great, Jimmy, thanks so much for having me.

Jimmy Tingle 1:04
It’s my pleasure. As I tell all the candidates our goal is to give the people who were running for office in Massachusetts, a platform to meet our listeners and for our listeners and our followers to meet them and get to know the people who want to represent them and currently in your case do represent them. So tell us, Matt and Matt, tell us a little bit about yourself. Well, who is Kim Driscoll, Mayor of Salem mass?

Kim Driscoll 1:28
Thanks, Jimmy. You know, I’ve been fortunate to be mayor in Salem for the last 16 years really grateful to lead and live in a welcoming and inclusive community. But I’m not actually a native of Massachusetts. I’m a Navy brat. My dad grew up in Linn. My mom is from Trinidad. I was born in Hawaii. And we lived all over, I came to Salem to go to college and just finally felt like I had a hometown, fell in love with the city with my husband. And we’ve been raising three kids in this beautiful place. I’m so enamored of local government, I really think it’s the branch of government that we all rely on educating your kids, keeping your neighborhood safe, investing in those places that matter. When I first took office in Salem, we had a lot of challenges, budgets that were out of whack, you know, we weren’t really open and transparent. I’m the first woman mayor of Salem, and I’ve really taken the mantle to work together with people in my community lead this gateway city. And 16 years later, were a hit historic, vibrant destination. We’re one of the most visited destinations in Massachusetts. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done here. And as mayor, the experience you get, you know, I chaired the school committee, we work on not only service delivery issues, but also important sort of forward thinking lenses. What are we going to do to meet our housing needs? How are we expanding pre K to better serve four year olds and our school population? What can we do to address climate change as a coastal community? I think what happens in cities, particularly cities like mine are very much a microcosm of the challenges we have at the state. And I hope to be able to use that experience that I’ve had as mayor prior to that working in the city of Chelsea as they were coming out of receivership. And just the lens of someone who’s on the ground every day, I call local government part of the get stuff done wing, and you’ve got to deliver, there’s no hiding when you’re making decisions. And I hope I can leverage this experience to work with our next, our next governor and make cities work and work better. When our communities are thriving. Our Commonwealth is thriving. And that’s the experience I hope to take. I’ve been fortunate to do this work and hope to use that experience to do it in more places.

Jimmy Tingle 3:25
Well, that sounds great, Tim. And you know, it’s interesting, Jerry Brown, former governor of California twice, I think, at least twice became the mayor of Oakland, California. And he said, You know, I’ve been governor and I’ve been mayor and when you’ve been mayor, it’s where the rubber meets the road. He said it is a different experience. You are not detached. You are not at 30,000 feet surveying the, you know, the state like California or a state like Massachusetts, you’re there in the neighborhood with the people on a day to day basis. And then to your point, there’s no place to hide. So so if you’ve survived 16 years, were you actually married for 16 years.

Kim Driscoll 4:08
I have been Yeah, I feel fortunate. This is my 17th year, been reelected five times by the people in my community and I feel blessed.

Jimmy Tingle 4:16
So tell us about why you’re running for lieutenant governor. What do you hope to bring to the office?

Kim Driscoll 4:21
You know, I touched upon it earlier. I really feel like for the Commonwealth to be vibrant and thriving. We need our communities working. And right now a lot of our communities are working but not all Salem is a gateway city, which means that we have a very diverse population, both in income and race and language and culture. I think it makes us more livable, but it also can bring different challenges. And we know there are gateway cities throughout Massachusetts places that were regional economic hubs that some are doing better than others, for our Commonwealth to do. Well, frankly, we need all of our cities working well, not just Boston and Kendall Square in the seaport district, I hope is Mayor as someone who has been an innovative leader with executive experience It’s as a city that’s nearly 400 years old, we have to not only be mindful of our history, but also be thinking forward thinking in a way that what’s the next iteration of our community going to be? Who are we going to benefit? And how are we going to do that work? I’m pretty sure not everybody agrees with every decision coming out of City Hall. I mean, I know that certain. But I think what people really respect about the work we’ve done here is the value that we have the best interest of our community in mind, that we’re good listeners, that we’re accountable when you’re making decisions for neighbors for people, you know, and see, you’re managing that risk, you’re managing those opportunities, you’re also working together. So I think the experience of mayor is one that can really help me partner with our next governor, to not just think about what’s happening at the state level, but how we’re benefiting the quality of life where people live, as you said, where the rubber hits the road. I think that’s an important lens, a sense of urgency, a skill set that’s tied to accountability and listening, that can really be helpful as we think about historic resources, and also some choppy waters ahead. So I hope to champion our cities.

Jimmy Tingle 6:01
Right. Well, tell me what specific areas of expertise would you like to bring to the table as lieutenant governor? I mean, we just came out of this pandemic. How do you think we did with it on a statewide basis? Do you think we we met the challenge? Maybe you have some ideas of what we could have done better? How was it for you as mayor? And how do you see those experiences helping you as LG in the areas that you would like to focus on?

Kim Driscoll 6:30
Yeah, thanks so much for that. I mean, mayors like me, we’re on the ground, you know, in the trenches with COVID, response and recovery, really current carrying both worry and opportunities for our communities. You know, I think Massachusetts has come through COVID. You know, pretty well was harrowing times, though the last few years, you’re managing risks for others. And depending upon your circumstances, if you’re someone whose whole livelihood was based on your business being open, you know, you wanted businesses open, and if you’re someone who lives with an immunocompromised family member, and really scared about what the impacts of COVID would be, you want everything shut down, you know, mares boards of health, we were in the crossroads of that, the crosshairs of that. And I will say that, I think that there was a lot of esprit de corps, people really came together from local leaders to community members. But as we’ve come out of it, we’ve also seen, you know, where the holes are, what parts of our system didn’t work from a public health delivery perspective. You know, our public schools were working well, for a lot of people, but not for all before the pandemic, we’ve got real challenges there with kids who have had academic gaps long times away from peers and classrooms, lots of screen time, tremendous amount of work to do there. And we did also note that for some people that came through COVID, with their economics intact, right, not to hurt in their pocketbooks. But for lots of others, especially now, with interest rates going up groceries gas going up, we have a lot of people hurting. We’re already a high housing cost state. So you add that and layer on these other challenges, I think we’re going to be in for some course correction. And someone who’s been an executive who has had to deliver services, who certainly has also had to think about how are we going to put in place programs and initiatives, interventions that can inoculate us from the worst of the pandemic, from the worst of economic resources, I’ve managed to city through a path through a recession, these are not easy things. The good thing is we’ve got some resources, in fact, historic resources. So I’m hopeful that we can use some of those dollars to inoculate ourselves from the worst of whatever might be coming from an economic standpoint, and put those dollars to good use to think about longer term economic prosperity. And for me, that’s housing, that’s early education, that’s not walking away from the work we have to do to tackle the climate crisis. You know, doing nothing is not an option in that sphere. And when you think about housing and climate, you have to add transportation. And many of us know, housing is the biggest challenge we’re facing in many of our communities, we need more of it, we need a whole lot more of it to be affordable. But you also need to be able to get people around, we want the housing, we don’t want the cars. And that’s key to the climate crisis as well. So as I said, cities are a microcosm of the challenges we’re facing at the state. I want to use this experience to partner with our next governor and get to work we’ve got we’ve got a, I think, some choppy waters ahead, but also some immense opportunities. And I’m betting on Massachusetts and want to be part of our team. You know,

Jimmy Tingle 9:12
we do have some great opportunities. And I know there’s going to be a lot of money coming from the federal government to Massachusetts. Are there programs that you put in place in as Mayor of Salem, around housing, around transportation, around early childhood education, those issues that are very important to you that you think would translate on a statewide level?

Kim Driscoll 9:34
Yeah, absolutely. You know, as a mayor and an executive, we’ve worked hard to ensure because we’re thinking about housing, what does that mean in our community? You know, we have a housing production plan, and it’s telling us, hey, good news, people are living longer, bad news. We don’t have to have enough housing to meet our need just for the people living here, let alone anybody who might be moving in. Every city. Having a housing production plan would be key, so you can understand the diagnostics around you know what type of housing you need to serve what age group and what demographic, and then get to work to do that, whether that’s through Smart Growth zoning proposals, looking at leveraging public land, using community land trust, there’s definitely strategies we can put in place to try and improve on the housing circumstances and all of our communities, you’ve got to marry that with getting cars off the road, too many single occupancy vehicles, you know, we’ve worked here on what’s called a rideshare service known as Salem Skipper. It’s an Uber base platform. And it’s given 65,000 rides. Since it’s been Inception just over a year, that’s helping both older adults who don’t want to drive younger adults who don’t have a license, helping us be a car light or car optional city, we’ve married that with our own car share program and our bike share program, you’re seeing a lot of the innovation, both in transportation and climate change, and operational needs are happening at the local level, because we’re smaller scale. And frankly, we’re a little bit more flexible. And that’s the type of work I hope to amplify, right? Same thing with earlier, we’ve expanded early ed, we have got to do that other states, Jimmy, the state of Alabama, or red state has high quality pre K for every four year old, we have got to put that in place as a way to help our youngest learners and our working families. And those are initiatives that I’ve undertaken, and hope to play a part in moving forward

Jimmy Tingle 11:10
when you talk about the car sharing and the Uber like transportation, is that publicly funded, or is that a public private partnership, because it sounds like a really good idea that if you could get some sort of public transportation to come to somebody’s house and pick them up and bring them to the specific destination without walking a half mile to the bus stop and walk on another mile a half mile a quarter mile, when you get there, it would be so effective. And I think it would be greatly improved public transportation, is that a public service?

Kim Driscoll 11:41
It is, it doesn’t quite meet you at your house, you still needed might need to walk to the end of the street that they give you. So I don’t it’s not a door to door if you’re you know, disabled or have some physical challenges that will pick you up at your door. But it generally makes you walk to the end of your block nothing too crazy. And we’re using our cannabis revenues to pay for it. You know, so if you come to Salem and not purchase some cannabis, you’re helping us get people around without a car. And it started out as an age friendly initiative. And now we know it’s serving all ages. So these are tools and innovations that exist. Think about it, no one really lives their life on a bus schedule. So we’ve got to find ways to make innovation with our existing transportation networks work better and smarter for people in our communities.

Jimmy Tingle 12:22
How are the bike paths been received in Salem, because I know I live in Cambridge. And, you know, there’s, there’s a tension there, between the bikes and the cars and trying to find the right balance, I will just say one thing that my experience is and I am a biker and a car person, there’s got to be mutual respect for people, you can’t it can’t be on just bike or I’m just car and screw the bike as a school of cars. It has got to be, you know, some mutual respect for people who are just trying to get to work and get around. How’s it working for you guys.

Kim Driscoll 12:54
You know, most of our bypass are off road, we’ve got some on road as well bike lanes, it is definitely a balanced trying not to undermine for folks who still need to drive the opportunity to do so. But most of our cities, frankly, the car is king. If you look at the amount of public space that’s, you know, reserved for cars between parking and roadways, you know, it right now has the advantage. And frankly, that’s the way most people travel. But it’s this chicken and egg. We can’t complain about the traffic when we’re sitting in our car, one person, single occupancy, like where the traffic need to have those alternatives. And it’s working pretty well here. But there’s always going to be grumblings on either side. And it’s up to all of us to come together to realize we can’t just have cars, we need to respect other ways of alternatives to get around walking, biking, especially a city like Salem or eight square miles. So we’re not the distance is not that far. But we’ve got to make it safer for people to use those alternatives.

Jimmy Tingle 13:46
It’s interesting that you’re using cannabis funds to fund transportation. If you go to Salem, or you buy an ounce of pot, you smoke a couple of bones, you don’t want to get behind the wheel anyway, that public Uber option.

Kim Driscoll 14:00
It’s all connected to me.

Jimmy Tingle 14:04
It’s all connected. Tell me what you’re most proud of some of the things you have most proud of as 16 years of Mayor and either in your private life where you owe your public life as mayor that you’ve been most proud of over the over the last 16 years. You

Kim Driscoll 14:20
know, personally, I’m so grateful to have three terrific kids, a wonderful supportive husband when you’re in a job like this. It’s definitely the family sacrifices in terms of time and like even going to the grocery store takes a little bit longer. And I’ve been blessed to have a family that’s really supportive. My immediate family, my supportive, extended family as well. But some of the things in the city I would say is like building a super strong team that’s professional that’s always looking to like get better. We don’t rest on laurels here what’s the better way to do something? How can we be cutting edge? We’re not afraid to try things that might not work. It’s a curiosity that I think we can use more of in state government. And I think our attention to the waterfront when I came here Salem is proud eminence came from the water, great age of sail, who had largely turned our back on it. Within a year we set up a new ferry service to get people back and forth from Boston, not only commuters, but visitors. We now have cruise ships coming to Salem, we’re about to become an offshore wind hub. We don’t have highway access, I always say Salem harbor Salem sound, that’s our route 128. Right. That’s our route one. That’s our key to our economic future. It always has been an our ability to really use our coasts and the waterfront, as an asset to drive the our economic development and great quality of life, you know, living on the water and opening up public space. As we turn 420 26 I think our community is poised to not just have like a, you know, an impressive pass, but a really bright future. And I’m proud to be a part of that along with a whole lot of people here who work together towards that aligned vision. And that’s the work right. That’s why we do this is for me anyways, it’s about trying to make a meaningful impact in the place you live in the place you love. It certainly is what’s driving my interest in running for lieutenant governor to take this experience and make it work on a larger scale, helping our communities bringing a lens of the get stuff done going to the statehouse and using these resources in a way that’s going to make Massachusetts better.

Jimmy Tingle 16:06
Let me ask you two questions. You said you went to you came to Salem to go to school? Did you go to Salem State?

Kim Driscoll 16:13
I went to Salem State I’m a hoop player. I play basketball there. Wow. Yeah, I got an internship in the planning department in Salem and really just fell in love with local government here.

Jimmy Tingle 16:22
And the other thing is, do you work well with others because I imagined being a mayor 16 years, you have to learn how to work well with others. And could you bring that to the to the statehouse,

Kim Driscoll 16:33
you know, whether I’m working as mayor, or certainly I hope to be working as lieutenant governor, some of the skill sets I rely on around team building is what I did playing hoops, right? When you’re on a team, you don’t always love everyone, you don’t always want to go out for a drink afterwards with everyone, but you work together towards a common goal. And that’s what I you know, certainly want to do is roll up my sleeves, I feel, you know, fortunate to be in a position to use some skill sets, and you want to surround yourself with people who are better than you who are smarter than you who have different ideas, you know, you duke it out around decision making, and then you know, you go after it. And that’s what I hope to do in this role.

Jimmy Tingle 17:06
Right? What position did you play in basketball,

Kim Driscoll 17:09
you know, I played point, I played a little bit of guard, you know, off guard, you know, whatever your strengths are on your team, that’s, you know, teams really matter when you’re thinking about how you know how you’re going to play how you’re going to attack a problem.

Jimmy Tingle 17:21
So please can give us a a final statement, and tell people where they can find out more about you where they might want to get involved with the campaign, and where they could make a donation

Kim Driscoll 17:36
to me, thanks so much for having me on, frankly, for having all of a sudden giving us this format, to introduce people to ourselves, or let them learn a little bit more about us. I really appreciate it.

Jimmy Tingle 17:44
Thank you so much.

Kim Driscoll 17:45
You know, I’m hoping to, as I said earlier, use my experience in local government, both here in Salem, and in Chelsea, to partner with our next governor, and do the sorts of work that people are relying on us to do you know, there’s a lot of cynicism in government. Are we doing enough? Are we doing too little? Are we really helping people’s lives, I see every day the work that I do on the local level, the impacts it has on people, and frankly, what we’re not able to do as well. And that has impacts to I’m really motivated to serve in this role. Because I think I have a skill set that it’s going to be helpful as we think about the next four years, some choppy waters ahead with interest rates and inflation impacting us, but also some immense opportunities with historic resources, really smart people in Massachusetts. And I think we’re at this point in time, where our actions are really going to have an impact on not just the next four years. But frankly, the next decade coming out of COVID. We’re not going back to the way things used to be we can’t quite stay with what’s happening now. It’s a little messy and chaotic and a lot of our systems. So what’s that new way forward. Mirrors are used to operationalizing plans, working with what you have listening to what’s happening on the ground, and then putting our best foot forward. I want to work as a team to build a stronger Massachusetts that positively impacts the quality of life and the places we live and I’d be thrilled and honored to have folks support. You can find out more at Kim Volunteer get involved. Campaigns are fun, and we’re always looking for more people to help us

Jimmy Tingle 19:05
ladies and gentlemen, Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem, Massachusetts, currently a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much madman for joining us today. Good luck, and we will see you on the campaign trail. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity at Jimmy Thank you

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