NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 10, 2014

Teenage chief of staff spurs criticism in Amesbury

(Continued)

In his current role as interim chief of staff, Kenney will earn about $1,000 a week. It’s not clear at this point how long he will stay on the job in Amesbury. His weekly pay is $115 less than what Gregoire was budgeted to earn this year, according to the FY14 city budget. Gregoire was 23 when Kezer hired him in 2012.

Kenney is widely recognized as a rising star in the state Republican Party and has already amassed a substantial political resume despite being only a sophomore in college.

Kenney is currently a member of the Wakefield School Committee, having first won election this past April. He finished second overall in the voting, beating out several established committee members in the process, and will serve a three-year term set to end in 2016.

He also made headlines after he successfully ran for a spot in the Republican National Convention in the spring of 2012. Despite the fact that he was still a senior in high school at the time, Kenney was able to organize a sizable group of supporters and defeated former gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker in a major upset.

Following his victory, however, Kenney learned a hard lesson in partisan politics after the state Republican Party leadership tried to force him out of his seat as an alternate delegate due to his support of Ron Paul so that they could give his seat to someone who had publicly backed Mitt Romney.

In the days that followed, Kenney appeared on “The Rachel Maddow Show” and took the party’s leadership to task, accusing a small group of the party’s leadership of putting their own interests ahead of the party.

“These are only a few corrupt power brokers in the leadership who want to keep the party to themselves,” Kenney told Maddow.

Kenney wound up keeping his seat after receiving an outpouring of support in the media, and also from Baker, who refused to take his seat. Having to face down his own party’s leadership in the public eye also helped prepare Kenney for another challenge that politicians have to deal with far more frequently, fending off attacks from the other side.

He also drew praise from Wakefield Town Administrator Stephen Maio, who called him an invaluable asset to the town who takes time to gather data and listen to all the facts before making decisions on key issues.

“You probably won’t find a more respectful person,” Maio said. “He’s very respectful of everyone, from the custodian to the chief of police. He’s very polished in how he speaks with people.”

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