Female mayors face challenges in Lynn, Salem

29noelection - Jamie Metsch, owner of Roost & Company, Salem, 41. (Laura Elyse King)
Laura Elyse King
Jamie Metsch, owner of Roost & Company in Salem, said he’s watched the growth of Salem, and he’d like to see more.

When voters go to the polls Nov. 7, two female mayors north of Boston face challenges from men.

Residents of Lynn and Salem have had a lot to say about the two races.

In Lynn, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy — who has been in office since 2009 — is trying to hold off state Senator Thomas McGee, who won the September preliminary election by a margin of 72 percent to 28 percent.


In Salem, Mayor Kim Driscoll, who was first elected in 2005, is going up against former city councilor Paul Prevey.

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Supporters of Kennedy said she’s been working to put Lynn on the map as a nice place to live.

“We’ve lived here for years, and I think she’s done a good job,” said Jack Fenton, 64. “There’ve been a lot of mayors over the years that haven’t done much.”

His wife, Sandy, 65, agreed.

“She cleaned up Wyoma Square, she’s improved the roads, got rid of quite a few potholes,” she said. “There’s the [restoration of] the gazebo in the [Lynn] Common, and a new one at Flax Pond. And have you seen all the murals downtown?”

Laura Elyse King
Sandy Fenton is supporting Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

The Fentons also oppose undocumented immigrants who are living in the United States. In 2014, Kennedy made controversial comments about the number of immigrants from Central America in the city’s schools, saying they were a drain on city resources.

“I thought she was very brave,” said Sandy Fenton.

Census estimates indicate about a third of Lynn’s roughly 90,000 residents were born outside the United States, and about half speak a language other than English at home.

Maria Vega-Viera, 41, works with low-income patients at the Lynn Community Health Center to help them understand the world of medical bills and health insurance. She said many of her patients haven’t been able to access this information for a variety of reasons, including language barriers and lack of Internet access.

Laura Elyse King
Maria Vega-Viera will be voting for Thomas McGee.

“Unless you’re a person of some kind of decent income and some kind of minimal knowledge of the Internet, people don’t even know what a city election is,” said Vega-Viera, who grew up in King’s Lynne, a low-income housing complex.


She said there’s a need to educate people about what the city government even does, and what it means to go to the polls.

Vega-Viera said she’ll be voting for McGee, mostly because she wants to see change in the way City Hall operates. McGee, son of the late house speaker Thomas McGee, was a state representative from 1995 to 2002, and has been a state senator since 2002.

Charlene Chagnon, 59, said the first candidate she’s ever felt passionate enough to canvass for is McGee. She thinks McGee’s open-minded personality and experience working for the city as a state senator will help him unify the city.

“He’s there for all our neighborhoods — not just some of them,” Chagnon said. “He has a different vision than mayors we’ve had before. “Everyone wants the same thing. They want to raise their family in a safe neighborhood. They want good jobs, good schools. I think Mr. McGee can help us get that.”

In Salem, two issues — whether the city is growing too much too fast and a controversial Sanctuary for Peace ordinance — have divided the city of about 41,000 residents.

Driscoll has spoken openly about her plans to encourage growth in the city, including a boom in housing and an influx of retail and hotels downtown.

That doesn’t sit well with Mary Costello, 77, who moved to Salem from Boston in 1990 and is supporting Prevey because he’s campaigning on a promise to halt development that doesn’t align with the homey feel of the small city.

Laura Elyse King
Mary Costello wants Salem to elect Paul Prevey.

“I don’t want to seem like I don’t want people to move here; I once moved here,” said Costello. “But the character of Salem is unique.”

Jamie Metsch, who owns the boutique shop Roost & Company in Derby Square, said he’s watched the growth of Salem, and he’d like to see more. He favors Driscoll.

“We own the shop here, and we live in walking distance,” said Metsch, 41. “Seeing the support of small, independent restaurants and retail has been great.”

He also supports Driscoll’s controversial sanctuary ordinance, which does not make Salem a sanctuary city, but reaffirms existing Salem policy that city services are open to all and that police will not require anyone seeking assistance to show proof of being legal immigrants.

Proponents say it does not prohibit police from cooperating with federal authorities. Voters will decide whether to adopt the ordinance on the Nov. 7 ballot.

During a September debate, Prevey said the ordinance “ends up changing nothing in terms of policy and practice. What it did do in this city is create a divide.”

Virginia Caivano, 65, a Driscoll supporter, said she doesn’t think the election would be as contentious if the ordinance hadn’t been proposed.

“Emotions have been charged up,” said Caivano.

“It’s a reaction to what happened in the presidential election.”

Laura Elyse King can be reached at laura.king@globe.
. Follow her on Twitter @lauraelyseking.