AMESBURY — Mayor-elect Kassandra Gove tapped into a young and growing electorate to become the city’s fifth mayor last week. She says she believes it is that energy and enthusiasm that is going to allow her to hit the ground running when she takes office in January.
The single, 34-year-old woman earned 2,318 votes to three-term incumbent Mayor Ken Gray’s 2,155 to be named Amesbury’s next chief executive. Her victory, she says, came as the result of a changing demographic.
"There is a new population here,” Gove said. “There are a lot more young families who have relocated to Amesbury. They are coming from the city with young kids and they have high expectations for a vibrant business community, for diverse programs and community offerings. They have high expectations for what their taxes will provide for them and they are looking for value."
The residents she has spoken to are looking for a well-maintained, well-managed city, according to the mayor-elect.
"I had people sending me pictures of broken playgrounds and sidewalks that they cannot push strollers on," Gove said. “Those types of things matter to young families who are looking to get out and are not just driving to work every day. They are more people staying home and going out with the kids and trying to enjoy these amenities. When we are not maintaining them, it feels like they are not getting what they paid for."
The property tax conversation in the city is all about value, she said.
"There are new people in town who are willing to pay more if they get more," Gove said. "There is value there and that is what they are looking for. This change in leadership in the vote that we just took is indicative of that."
Gove promised to tap into state, federal and private grant funding mechanisms.
"Other communities don't rely so heavily on tax revenue and we need to find those alternatives," Gove said. "I already have departments reaching out to me and talking about grants they have found and would like to pursue. There are grants out there, but we need a grant writer to help us pursue those and submit good grant applications and start checking off the boxes for some of these projects that are outstanding, such as ongoing maintenance that we have never paid any attention to."
Gove’s mayoral campaign made use of many different social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, as well as radio advertisements, newsletters, text messaging and a website. It focused on a positive message.
"We stuck to the message and I think that resonated with a lot of people," Gove said. "We got people out from all corners of the community and there was a good marketing strategy behind it."
Gove had been on leave from her position as executive director of the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce while running for office and said she is working with the Chamber’s board of directors to establish a transition plan.
She also works as a licensed real estate salesperson with Stone Ridge Properties, but said said she has no plans to practice real estate during her tenure as mayor.
Gove said her ability to make use of many different communication platforms and strategies is a skill she intends to bring to the mayor’s office next year.
"That is a technique and skills that I used at the Chamber and I look at it as a microcosm of my leadership skills," Gove said.
Gove has a master's degree in education from the University of South Carolina and said she learned most of her marketing skills while on the job as assistant director in the department of development and alumni relations for Boston University, and eventually at the Chamber.
"I just live a very digital life," Gove said. "So I follow a lot of people and learn from them. I also call myself a lifelong learner, so I value learning.”
The mayor-elect also said it is very important for her to recognize the 2,155 people who did not vote for her Tuesday.
"I want to reach out to them by having a true, open-door policy, inviting them in to talk," Gove said. "I think a lot of it is going to be a proof-is-in-the-pudding method and showing them I can do it. The concerns I had heard from people who were voting for my opponent were my age and youthfulness, my experience and taxes, obviously.
"(Gray's) message was really about decreasing our tax rate and I think having an education degree and background and focusing on communication will help people understand how our tax rates are calculated and where our money is coming from and being spent."
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.