, Newburyport, MA

October 29, 2013

Mullins advocates for open waterfront and plans to fund it


---- — NEWBURYPORT — As part of our coverage of the Nov. 5 general election, The Daily News will provide profiles of residents running for City Council.

Today’s reporting focuses on Sheila A. Mullins, who is seeking an at-large position. Nine are running for five at-large seats. Voters will also elect councilors to represent each of the city’s six wards.


Age: 48

Address: 7 Parsons St.

Family: Husband, Jerry, and our cat, Thalia

Occupation: Interior designer, personal cook and office manager

Education: Tobé-Coburn School for Fashion Careers (New York), associate degree in occupational studies

Reason for running: Mullins said, “One reason is that change is going to occur, and how we manage that change will affect whether the effect that change brings is positive or negative for Newburyport. We must be able and ready to manage those changes for our benefit.”

Mullins said that her experience in municipal committees has helped prepare her for the post.

“I want to be the citizens’ representative to manage change,” she said. “I have been involved in many areas of the community: I was clerk of the Charter Commission, collaborated with Charter Yes! to pass the charter, am a founder and former executive board member of the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Socity, was co-chair of the Community Preservation Act here, am a Friend of the Council on Aging, a member of the Custom House, Parker River Clean Water Association, Citizens for Environmental Balance and the Newburyport Preservation Trust.

“I want to do what I can to preserve socio-economic diversity in our community because every citizen is a valuable part of our community,” she added. “Put simply, I want to be able to do more to help our community.”

Position on the central waterfront? “I am your candidate for an open, non-privatized waterfront who has a vision and a real plan to pay for and maintain it. With 30 percent of the current parking revenues, we can take out a revenue bond to begin construction of our park. It would take about six years to pay off the bond.

“Additionally, even the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s own consultant said that there are grants available totaling between $500K and $750K for the park’s creation,” Mullins said.

How can schools be improved? “First, I wish to say congratulations to Port Pride for getting the schools and senior center passed. The schools are presently on time and on budget. But what is going on inside the schools? We have had three superintendents in four years, and many vice principals and principals. What we have is a systemic failure of leadership and constantly changing priorities.

“I have spoken to members of the School Committee and have been informed that, with some of the changes they have made, that a cost savings of $100K can be made this year whereby the money can go back into the classrooms. We are also not taking advantage of two virtually free programs to help our kids. First is the distance learning lab. The second is partnering with our local community colleges so our students can receive credit for both their high school and college level classes.”

What is an area of special interest that you would want to work on? “In the new charter, we ensured that the city would have to create a five-year capital improvement plan. That list is presently a wish list. We need to set real priorities and start funding them in a predictable and fiscally sustainable way. For example, let’s say that 20 streets are on the repair list but we receive Chapter 90 funds (road improvements) for 16.

“Instead of the last four that were on this year’s list being on the top of next year’s list, they go back into the bag for a new priority list,” she said. “We all know that those four streets didn’t get better. Why are they not on the top of the priority list for the next year? I don’t know, but they should be.”