It is easy to forget how far Gloucester has come in the six years since Carolyn Kirk was elected mayor.
The city is no longer locked into bad union contracts like the former firefighters’ deal with staffing mandates that forced the closure of three fire stations and ran up overtime. A wind power project at Blackburn Industrial Park has significantly cut city power costs; the private-public partnership has served as a model for other communities.
Are there problems? Of course. There are significant questions over the future of the former Fuller School and the city-owned I-4, C-2 site as well as short-and long-term challenges for the city’s school system.
Businessman and developer Mac Bell, who jumped into the race at the 11th hour, has drawn attention to those and other issues through his campaign and a lively series of debates. He also has plenty of ideas about economic development, and the discussion has been good for the city.
But choosing a mayor is about more than ideas. It is also about action. The city needs a mayor who will make tough, often unpopular decisions while still being able to work effectively with others.
Kirk doesn’t merely talk about those issues in what-ifs and platitudes. She has made the hard choices to get the city’s economic house in order. For example, she has pushed the city to address its massive infrastructure needs with an ongoing $40 million-plus water improvement project.
She knows the realities of dealing with the state and federal government on waterfront issues. She has confronted school issues not by merely throwing money at the problems, but by taking precise and sometimes difficult steps — like shifting school grounds maintenance and operation of the Talbot Rink to the Department of Public Works.