Mac Bell sashayed between rows of seated bingo players, displaying a sheet cake decorated with his mayoral campaign logo to the applause and occasional cheers of about 80 of Gloucester’s elders Wednesday.
“It’s nice to have him come here to us,” said Grace Curcuru, as she waited for the bingo game to begin. Several seniors echoed that sentiment.
Bell has run on a platform that emphasizes his campaign’s “voters’ bill of rights,” which first and foremost calls for respecting all taxpayers and their tax dollars.
Some of those who deserve most respect, he says, are the older folks. Wednesday’s visit to the Senior Center came the morning after he celebrated his mom’s 91st birthday with her and his 101-year-old father.
Bell has echoed his idea of government “at your service” throughout his campaign.
“My comfort level with people is such that I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Bell said. “For me, it’s the love of community and of service. The relationship of being able to work with people, of being able to enjoy working with people, is something Gloucester deserves.”
Bell, with a couple of helpers, handed out cake slices from a hefty blue tray, whispering to each bingo player to ask whether she or he preferred vanilla or chocolate. After distributing the cake, he walked around the room with a jug of coffee, serving it up as naturally as a waiter at George’s or Zeke’s.
Bell stopped to speak with those who recognized him. He leaned in to talk with one man seated in an electrical chair, cracked into laughter, then laid his brown suede jacket across the back of the chair, asking the man to hang onto it as Bell headed off to greet a “young lady” with bright eyes and white hair.
“First time I’ve ever met him,” that man said, smiling as he bent over his cards.
Others at the center recognized Bell immediately, and many said they knew his father in their heyday.
Many of those people, including Ben Johnson, said that whoever ends up in the mayor’s chair after Tuesday’s election will need to focus on fixing roads and pulling in more revenue from the I-4, C-2 property on Rogers Street.
The city recently began charging for parking on the I-4, C-2 site, but Johnson and many others want to see more. Johnson said Wednesday that Bell might have the business know-how to make something happen.
“He could do a good job, too,” said Johnson, who described himself as an undecided voter and took a break from his work at a senior center computer to chat. “He’s very upfront, from what I see. He keeps his word.”
During the campaign, Bell has often criticized incumbent Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s handling of the I-4, C-2 property. He points out that her administration bought the property at four times its assessed value and has, in his eyes, failed to make it viable. Bell has said he would not have bought the property and would have instead worked with the then-owner to help him develop it and allow the city to continue pulling in the property tax.
“We want to work with people who own property, not compete with them,” Bell said Wednesday.
That day, Bell followed his visit at the senior center, with a stop into the Common Crow, the growing business that took over after the former Glass Sail Boat shop that Bell ran for 31 years downtown. The Common Crow owners are preparing for a move into the much-larger space on Main Street that used to house Cameron’s.
Bell drove his Prius, emblazoned with a Mac for mayor logo, to various meetings.
But voters who follow Bell’s campaign website already knew that. The site, among other tools, features a scrolling calendar called “Where’s Mac.” The site also includes features like instructions on where and how to fill out a ballot, informational videos on Bell’s platforms and frequent blog posts describing his views and the day-to-day of campaigning.
The father of five entered the race at the 11th hour in August, just before sending his youngest son off to college. He pulled into the race looking to bring a willingness for change and has focused on developing the harbor front and repairing city properties as he looks toward Gloucester’s 400th anniversary in 2023.
Bell says he wants to have Stacy Boulevard’s rusted and crumbling railings and torn up walking path repaired. He envisions a path spanning from Stage Fort Park to the Breakwater, a conscious effort to create public and pedestrian access to the harbor. Those ideas, along with proposed policy about Gloucester’s public schools and the concept of term limits for mayor, have earned him positive feedback when he canvasses door-to-door or speaks to people at events, Bell said.
Bell said that, if elected, he would study the city’s charter with the goal of limiting mayors to two terms in the seat, but he would expand those terms to three years rather than the current two. He would also consider staggering elections for committees and councils to avoid complete turnover, especially on the School Committee.
When it comes to schools policy, Bell said a priority should be finding a place to create a transitional school while Gloucester’s elementaries, beginning with West Parish, undergo repairs. He also would support the School Committee as it considers redistricting.
“There’s nothing more important than our children’s education being appropriately funded and supported,” Bell said. “Jobs, development — it all comes back to education.”
Bell proposes finding solutions to various problems facing the city by working with people to get past the initial “no” that comes at the face of change.
“My candidacy brings to the office someone who’s willing to take and make initiative,” Bell said.
The campaign story on Mayor Carolyn Kirk appeared in yesterday’s Times.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.