“For me, getting out earlier has given me a chance to meet people,” Gray said. “I’ve met hundreds of people and heard their concerns, and what I’ve learned is there are a lot of knowledgeable and engaged people in town who want to see the city moving in the right direction.”
The key for each of the four candidates will be demonstrating to the electorate that they are best equipped to lead Amesbury in the right direction going forward, and for Kezer, that means proving that the best course is to stay the course.
Kezer said the focus of his campaign would be on highlighting Amesbury’s recent successes, particularly in regards to economic development and cost control.
Specifically, he said that he’s proud of the savings generated by Amesbury’s successful regionalization of the health department, the trash/recycling program and the police dispatchers, which have combined to save the city over $400,000 in operational costs every year, he said.
“We’ve been very successful in finding innovative ways to do our business of providing municipal services,” he said. “In all those cases that I just ticked off, all three are improving those services while creating savings.”
To emphasize these and other campaign points, Kezer recently launched a new campaign website.
Kezer has faced the sharpest criticism over the city’s property taxes, and an oft-cited perception that the city’s taxes are too high and putting too great a burden on local residents. The most commonly cited figure is the city’s tax rate, which is currently the seventh highest in the state at $20.24 per thousand.
Kezer has repeatedly responded to these criticisms by arguing that the figure residents should be looking at is the tax bill, not the tax rate. His website reflects this philosophy, pointing out that Amesbury’s average tax bill equals the average for Essex County, that 40 percent of residents got a tax cut this past year, and that despite having a higher tax rate, Amesbury total property taxes are still $10 million less than Newburyport’s. The site makes no mention of the city’s tax rate.