By Jim Sullivan
---- — AMESBURY — When Frank Czar followed the Powow River to Amesbury, he knew he was home.
“Amesbury inspires its residents to be passionate,” Czar said, “because we all love where we live and we want the best for it. It’s just half of us think that this is the way it should be done and the other half think the other way.”
A North Shore native, Czar moved to Amesbury in 2007. While he loves his adopted home, he also knows it can be a hotbed of contention, none so more than during last year’s mayoral election that saw Mayor Ken Gray defeat his predecessor Thatcher Kezer by a mere three votes.
“We all had the same concern that, yeah, there was an election going on, but we were dismayed at the tone that the conversation was taking,” Czar said. “Ultimately, Amesbury was getting trashed through the process. Elections come and go, but after the election is over, we all have to live there.”
Three months before the election, Czar banded together with his wife Kim and fellow Kezer supporters Rob Chamberlain, Matt Einson, Michael Hogg, Gretchen Marinopoulos and current District 6 City Councilor Jonathan Sherwood and his wife Amy to create the political action committee I Am Pro Amesbury.
“A lot of us were Thatcher Kezer supporters, but Thatcher didn’t have anything to do with the organization of I Am Pro Amesbury,” Czar said. “It was us who reached out to him and other city councilors who we thought were like-minded with us, who best represented our goals and ideals.”
I Am Pro Amesbury endorsed Kezer and Sherwood, as well as other candidates for City Council, School Committee and library board. It also held a rally just prior to the election.
“Because we had agreed that we wanted to put out an endorsement, there are all these campaign finance laws and stuff like that,” Czar said. “And the only reason for organizing as a PAC was just to be on the right side of the laws which, to be honest, we weren’t sure we needed to do. But if you don’t do it, people will scream you are not in compliance; if you do it, it’s a conspiracy. You are kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
When Kezer eventually lost the election in a recount, I Am Pro Amesbury needed to figure out where they would go next.
“Our goal after the election was to take a step back,” Czar said. “The results didn’t particularly go our way, but the reason we came together was to highlight the great things Amesbury has to offer and to make it a better place since the beginning. We felt we worked so well together that we wanted to continue to work together to make Amesbury a better place, and the first goal was to change the way the conversation was happening.”
The group has continued to be active in Amesbury’s political scene — issuing a list of budget-related questions for the School Committee to address, getting involved in a recent student protest and hosting a site on the Internet to discuss Amesbury matters.
The I Am Pro Amesbury Facebook page was joined by “Amesbury Talks” on Jan. 2, which this week hit over 500 members of all different political persuasions both to discuss local issues and to mobilize when the opportunity strikes.
When 150 students marched to Market Square last week to protest proposed budget cuts, many were holding I Am Pro Amesbury signs.
“We had nothing to do with organization of (the march),” Czar said. “We reached out and were supportive of what the students were doing. We had the signs left over from the campaign. One of our I Am Pro Amesbury ideals was to invest in the schools. That is something that we are concerned about. That is something that we put out, that this is one of our ideas. After the campaign, they were sitting in a garage somewhere and when the kids decided to march, we had all these signs with our logo on it, but it didn’t have Pro Amesbury on it. These are kids who don’t have signs and we do.
“We really have a lot of people who are dedicated to seeing this town be really the best place that it can be,” Czar said. “We all love living here. We all love this city.”