By Richard Gaines
---- — Carolyn Kirk said Friday she would run for a fourth, two-year term as mayor in 2013.
A formal re-election announcement and event will be held at the Gloucester House on Saturday, Feb. 16, the 51-year-old mother of two, wife of business editor Bill Kirk of The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover and former School Committee member said in an interview at the Times.
Raised in upstate New York, Kirk, a former business consultant, has proved to be a decisive and remarkably successful municipal politician, winning all 10 precincts of the five wards in her first campaign for mayor in 2007, against City Council President Jim Destino, and then capturing large majorities in her second and third campaigns.
Politically formidable, she has shown a knack for assembling a dedicated and generous political organization, and raised money in 2012 to prepare for the fourth campaign this year. Lucky — or fortunate — she has also been.
Her opponent in 2009, Sharon George, town clerk in Wilmington, was basically trapped five days a week in a distant town and decided against mounting a full campaign, effectively conceding the election to Kirk; in 2011, her opponent, Ken Sarofeen, was a part-time cook at the Elks Lodge running for the first time without significant campaign finance resources and captured 21 percent of the vote.
Kirk came to prominence via election to the School Committee where she demonstrated a knack for marketing with signature “Kirk for Kids” signs of a stick figure at a desk. She followed that with round signs (“vision, leadership, progress for Gloucester”) in the upset of Destino.
From the first campaign, Kirk staked her political future on the commitment to bring the city out of a fiscal free-fall and issued a detailed, graphic state of the city address in April 2008 that showed what needed to be done to attain stability. After years of deficits and bad grades from the rating agencies and the state, Kirk has produced a string of surpluses, or free cash, and has stabilized the bond rating even as the Great Recession battered the nation.
She said she is “particularly proud (of) exceptional financial management which allows great community programs like the (rebuilding of) Newell Stadium to become reality, the earned trust of public and private parties which allows for strong public-private partnerships to be built — such as wind turbines or infrastructure upgrades to support businesses, residences and new growth in the Commercial Street, Fort Square area — and fostering and supporting the work of the ‘citizen-workforce that volunteers day in and day out and returns great value to the city as seen in projects such as Burnham’s Field, the Magnolia Schoolhouse, the Fish Shack in Lanesville, City Hall and many others.”
The day before she made her reelection plan public, the city was awarded $3 million in a state MassWorks grant to support infrastructure upgrades in the Commercial Street, Fort Square area necessary for the construction of a beachfront hotel that has had her support since her first campaign but had proved problematic. Kirk and the developers seemed to persevere in 2012 when the council adopted a zoning overlay that authorized a hotel in what had been a marine industrial zone where hotels are forbidden.
She also succeeded in constructing a multi-media, interactive HarborWalk last year that offers visitors an entertaining and historically unified impression of Gloucester in its many facets. But another signature Kirk initiative, the acquisition of the choice Rogers Streer acreage known as I-4, C-2, has proved an enduring challenge, and remains in limbo.
In the modern era, since the adoption in the 1970s of the City Charter with its strong mayor system, a fourth consecutive term would leave her one election and term short of Councilor Bruce Tobey’s record five straight terms, beginning with the 1993 election, and including one year as mayor, elected from the council by the council to fill the term of a major who resigned in 1991.
Richard Gaines may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or email@example.com.