Analysis of Her Landslide Win — Amesbury Re-Elects Their Sagacious Mayor

Gove supporters on election night 2021

As the day drew near I was fairly certain Mayor Gove was going to win re-election. I posted my prediction in a private group of supporters: “I believe Gove is going to *get it done* once again, and I think by a landslide.”

The “get it done” was a reference to a last-minute guerilla marketing effort by a group of enthusiastic Amesbury women (not associated with the official campaign) we planted signs in our yards and car windows featuring a likeness of Kassandra as “Rosie the Riveter” and the tagline of “Gove Gets It Done.”

Over one hundred “Gove Gets It Done” signs appeared in Amesbury yards and cars on October 26, 2021

How Did She Do It When Outspent By That Much?

Republican challenger Jim Kelcourse spent about $82,000 on a mayor’s race in a small city with a population of 18,000. Most of that came from his own fundraising, with a significant amount raised as a State Representative. Another $7,500 came from a Republican SuperPAC connected to Massachusetts Governor Baker. What did Jim Kelcourse get for that investment? 39% of the vote.

Kassandra Gove spent a fraction of that at about $26,000. She’s not affiliated with any political party so did not receive donations from PACs or even local political committees. She won the election with 61% of the vote.

In Gove’s first run for mayor in 2019, she won by only 157 votes against incumbent Ken Gray (2,306 to 2,149). That number was actually significant for a small-town race, especially in Amesbury that six years earlier saw a challenger beat the incumbent mayor by only two votes. (it was three before a recount).

This year Gove won by 1,307 votes, a landslide victory unheard of locally.

One side relied on the campaign.
The other side relied on the candidate and her two-year performance.

When a candidate wins, we almost always talk about what worked in the campaign they ran. It’s often the campaign tactics that influence the voters’ image of a candidate or that scare people away from their opponent. But tactics are not always the key to a win.

Why Was I So Certain She’d Win?

When Mayor Gove was first elected I was intrigued by the young, people-centered mayor. I daydreamed about how she might transform local government and the city of Amesbury.

Within weeks I got a glimpse of her vision for the city. She was following through on her pledge of transparency and engaging with Amesbury residents in a manner that created meaningful pathways for them to participate in the workings of the city.

I knew there would always be naysayers with their own agenda, but it was hard for me to imagine Mayor Gove not being liked by the entire town.

During the last few weeks of her re-election campaign, I had moments of concern, but by that time I was convinced Mayor Gove would win. I jokingly referred to my theory as the “Imperceptible Two-Year Re-Election Campaign.”

I had a sense that there were hundreds of people who may not have displayed her campaign sign in their yard, were not commenting in Facebook Groups, and yet were aware of what she was doing as mayor, recognized the quality of her leadership, and were convinced of her commitment to the people of Amesbury.

I believed there was a silent majority who would vote and bring her the win. There was and they did.

In a story published on November 4th, 2021 the mayor shared the reasons she believed she won.

The story began “Mayor Kassandra Gove credited personalized campaigning and an attention to detail for her reelection victory Tuesday.”

Kassandra is humble and generally does not toot her own horn. Her statement in the Daily News of Newburyport only touched the surface of what I believe contributed to her win.

Here’s my analysis of her re-election success.

Her Character

When was the last time you heard an elected official praised for their virtues? I’m not talking about people saying how nice they are, but rather commending the virtues of their character.

Kassandra Gove is a public servant with impeccable character. She’s known for her integrity, humility, and courage. Conscientious and compassionate, she wants her city to be known for kindness. She’s an optimist, who displays maturity and confidence.

Mayor Gove often rolls up her sleeves and does the work that she could ask someone else to do.

Her Equanimity

Kassandra has the rare leadership quality of equanimity. She is emotionally even-keeled and keeps her cool in all situations.

I believe that candidates at all levels of government are more effective if they practice equanimity (defined in this Psychology Today article as the ability to “maintain mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”) Some of my friends enjoy the outspoken scrappiness of some local elected officials, but I agree with the article that “Equanimity is the antidote for burning bridges with people.”

The media rarely acknowledges the abundance or lack of equanimity in public figures. It is not only accepted but expected that a (male) candidate will behave aggressively on occasion and sometimes often. Male candidates can get away with losing their cool. Female candidates however are immediately criticized for the slightest expression of anger, yet are not praised when they effectively manage their emotions and resist the bait of those trying to provoke them.

While our cultural myths have many believing that strong leaders need to be aggressive, it’s my experience that the most effective leaders are those who are even-tempered and have the capacity for empathy and compassion.

While aggression is unnecessary, assertive communication is a required skill and one that goes hand in hand with equanimity.

Amesbury’s Al Capp Amphitheater and Mayor Kassandra Gove

Her Leadership & Approach to Governing

When Kassandra first took office she surprised many of us with executive skills that were equal to someone who’d been running a city for years.

In the November 4th Daily News article she continued “Over the last two years, we have worked really hard to communicate with folks who live and work in Amesbury. I’d say that the residents and electorate are more engaged than ever. They better understand municipal government and how it works and are more passionate about what happens in their community and they showed that by coming out yesterday.”

In her statement, Gove gives credit to the people, and yet she is the one who prioritized communication, and revised city reports to make them easier to understand and more pleasant to read. The people are more passionate about what happens in their city because her administration did a great job of informing and inspiring them.

Mayor Gove has not only been transparent by communicating what she’s up to but she’s encouraged residents to get involved with city government by inviting them to serve on boards, committees, and commissions.

Gove’s master plan development project I AMesbury 2030 is giving residents the opportunity to have a say about the future of Amesbury.

Okay, so she’s an innovative, open-book, brainiac mayor who connects with people and makes good decisions. But what impact does that have?

In a small town, there’s no surefire way to measure the degree of impact a mayor's performance is having on voters until the next election. Now we know that voters did take notice of how she operated as mayor.

Her Foresight

Mayor Gove’s decision-making is researched and reflective; timely, and decisive. She has anticipatory intelligence and is proactive. Her acute perception and conscientious approach gives her an uncanny ability to see what’s coming. She’s two steps ahead of anyone else, prepared to address any issue head-on without hesitation.

Her foresight was a key attribute that helped her handle the pandemic so skillfully.

While it’s easy to get bogged down by foresight if we hold too many possibilities in our mind or play them out in too much detail, the skill is a great asset in a leader because of their ability to anticipate what they (or their staff) might come up against if a certain path is chosen.

Those with foresight are great decision-makers because they use their imagination and intuition to analyze every angle and they problem-solve in advance.

Kassandra likely wouldn’t describe herself with this amount of praise and attribution but she might agree with my description of her process.

While there are others in public office nationwide with similar attributes, leaders this impressive are quite rare.

Gove’s Attributes That Won People Over

  • Character — Her Virtues & Authenticity
  • Her Integrity — It’s About People - Not Politics or Power
  • How She Leads — Her Intelligence & Executive Skills
  • Her Relational Skills — Assertiveness, Boundaries & Conflict Resolution
  • Her Communication Skills — Self-Responsible. Direct but with Empathy
  • Her Creativity — How She Innovates & Inspires Interest
  • Her Humility — It’s Not About Her

The Good News: You Can’t Fake This

Running on a platform of transparency won’t work if a candidate isn’t willing to answer voters’ questions. A candidate can’t pretend to have a plan for the city when they have no vision to share. A candidate won’t invite residents to get involved with city government if they don’t want them to know what they’re up to.

But if you are a mayor who has nothing to hide and everything to be proud of, you will invite residents to be civically involved and they will know you are sincere.

Kassandra Gove was re-elected because the people of Amesbury saw firsthand how she was serving them. They were impressed and she earned their trust.

A Different Kind of Re-Election Campaign

Mayor Gove ran a re-election campaign that didn’t always resemble other campaigns.

Many of us got nervous when we saw her opponent blanket the town overnight with twice as many signs as she had. We followed the finance reports and saw the money flowing in from out of town.

Many thought it was a competitive race, with a well-known and well-liked challenger. Some were afraid she couldn’t win if she didn’t get aggressive and “play hardball.” But Kassandra doesn’t play hardball. She simply continued to run the city and in her off-hours persisted with her door-knocking and other people-meeting activities.

I had conversations with her throughout the campaign and while she never stated outright that she thought she was going to win, she always had a positive outlook and I was struck by how she never seemed ruffled or burdened with doubt.

Gove’s Meet and Greet at the Blue Moon on the Powow River

For a mayor like Gove, campaign tactics likely aren’t as important as they are for most others, because she had already laid the foundation and done the most important work of any political campaign — becoming known for her accomplishments, and proving herself as a public servant that the people of Amesbury would want to re-elect.

Obviously, if a challenger came along who was equally transparent, had experience and executive skills, with something compelling to offer, she would have had something to worry about.

Many thought State Representative Kelcourse was a formidable challenger.
As it turned out, he wasn’t.

Perhaps the mild-mannered Kassandra Gove knew that all along.

She’s Not a Politician

Before being elected to her first term, Kassandra did not have experience in politics or local government. She had executive experience from her five years as director of the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce and from a variety of other leadership-related positions and education.

She repeatedly said about her role as mayor “It’s About People, Not Politics.”

Election Day 2021 in Amesbury. Mayor Gove was in sensible shoes.

What Voters Told Her on Election Day

The screenshot below is of a comment posted in a Facebook Group on election day:

Text in the image above: “When we headed back out from voting I stopped to talk to her and told her “I definitely didn’t vote for you last election but you more than earned my vote this time.” Kassandra said she really appreciated hearing that — she seemed very grateful for the vote of confidence.”

I was standing a few yards from Kassandra at the polls, when a man who had just voted, shot her a quick glance as he walked by, and without stopping stated firmly, “I’ve never felt better about any decision in my life.”

In the Daily News article, Kassandra described how her administration worked hard to communicate, and how residents were passionate about what happens in their community.

What Didn’t She Mention?

I read the article a few times before it hit me — before I noticed the most significant challenge that Mayor Gove did not mention.

She didn’t mention the monster that descended on her first term.
The pandemic monster that other mayors might have felt defeated by or that they might have blamed for what they didn’t accomplish.

That’s what’s so impressive about Kassandra — she never makes excuses or plays the victim.

She handled the COVID crisis like a pro. Many people gave her their vote for that reason alone. But for her, that was simply what a mayor doesyou handle the unexpected crises that arise, but you also do whatever it takes to continue the work of running the city.

That’s what she did. And with her skills and commitment, she did it better than anyone could have imagined.

That’s why she’ll start her second term in January 2022.

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Relational & Procedural Skills Coach. Web Design. Unbridled perspectives on almost everything. https://christinegreen.com/coaching/

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Christine Green

Christine Green

Relational & Procedural Skills Coach. Web Design. Unbridled perspectives on almost everything. https://christinegreen.com/coaching/

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