Mayor Driscoll’s aide to lead Salem YMCA

Jason Silva, outgoing chief of staff to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.
Jason Silva, outgoing chief of staff to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.

Jason Silva, who has served as Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll’s chief of staff for the last seven years, will become the new executive director of the Salem YMCA next month.

“We felt very strongly that if Jason could be a key player for Mayor Driscoll, then he could be a key player for us,” said Jack Meany, chief executive officer of the YMCA of the North Shore.

Silva’s announcement marks the second departure in Driscoll’s inner circle in recent weeks.


Last month, Richard Viscay, the city’s finance director, informed Driscoll that he planned to leave Salem and join the city of Everett as its chief financial officer. Viscay and Silva both were original hires by Driscoll when she took office in January 2006.

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Driscoll, who plans to run for reelection later this year, said she wasn’t surprised that the two were recruited for other jobs. “When you have smart, capable people, you expect them to grow and go on and do better things, and that’s what is happening here,” she said.

She thinks Silva — who worked on policy issues and served as a liaison between the mayor’s office and the Salem City Council —will be an effective leader in his new post.

“He’s an incredibly hard worker; he just works tons and tons of hours. He’s extremely capable,” said Driscoll. “I think he will enjoy being the CEO of his own organization.”

Silva, 35, is a Beverly native and has served as city councilor at large in his hometown for the last year. The YMCA position will be his third job since earning a bachelor’s degree from Salem State in 2000. Before joining Driscoll in 2006 at City Hall, Silva worked as an associate director for the Massachusetts Nurses Association.


“I was ready for a new challenge, and this opportunity presented itself,” said Silva. He called the Salem YMCA “an institution” and said he was excited about continuing to work in Salem.

Silva will become the third executive director of the Salem YMCA since August 2011. At that time, Mari Matt was chosen to succeed longtime executive director Debbie Amaral, who now leads the Malden YMCA. Meany said Matt would shift over to communications and leadership development at the YMCA of the North Shore network.

The Salem YMCA first opened in 1858, and has been at its present location on Sewall Street since 1898. Meany said it employs 170, including 20 full-time workers. Its annual budget is $3 million, and it has 4,500 members who use its two indoor pools, gym, fitness center, and studios.

The 65,000-square-foot Salem YMCA also offers preschool classes and after-school child care. It recently raised $1 million to refurbish its theater, Ames Hall. President William Howard Taft once addressed Salem residents there, and it will be used as a center for the arts.

Silva said he will miss working for Driscoll and he called the last seven years a rewarding period. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Silva, who said one of the highlights was being part of an administration that was able to eliminate a multimillion-dollar deficit in the city shortly after entering office. “I grew to love city government, and being part of the operations and the day-to-day grind was particularly challenging but rewarding.”


Meany, who oversees YMCAs in Salem, Beverly, Haverhill, Gloucester, Ipswich, and Marblehead, also pointed to Silva’s work ethic as an attribute that stood out in the search process. “He knows how to go hard for things he believes in and he knows how to motivate people. Jason is a communicator, which is very important. He has a very easy way with people, which I think will be invaluable in working with staff, memberships, and the overall community.”

In addition to running the Salem YMCA, overseeing staff, budgeting, and fund-raising, Silva will with help create partnerships with businesses and community organizations, said Meany.

“I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work,” said Silva. “I’d like to build upon the many successes the Y has had and continues to have, and I think my role in the last seven years in the mayor’s office will be helpful in building partnerships.”

Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @WriteRosenberg.