Nurturing a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in Amesbury

It’s happening. We’re getting closer to being a full-fledged Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Mayor Gove is leading the way with her people-focused governing. Of course, it’s not perfect. Like any mayor, she’s had tough decisions to make, many of which were related to complex projects and policies.

The urge to simplify issues is understandable but can result in misunderstandings and quick judgments that inspire social media comments that might not be accurate.

“Why don’t we have lifeguards at Lake Gardner?!” someone demanded on the Amesbury Talks Facebook Group after a tragic pre-season drowning on a day when lifeguards would not have been on duty in any year.

The lifeguard issue had previously been explained in that FB Group and on the mayor’s weekly Facebook broadcast. But the incident was upsetting so the question was understandable. It provoked uninformed negative comments about the governing of the city. (FYI — there’s a lifeguard shortage. The city can’t find lifeguards to hire even when offering to pay for training)

That was a fairly lightweight exchange in the Facebook Group. Even with those inevitable tensions, the city of Amesbury is moving in a positive direction.

I think today’s article says it all. I knew cool stuff was happening but these two Amesbury “firsts” are great examples of Mayor Gove’s vision becoming more of a reality.

Does she deserve credit for these? Chief Bailey gives her credit for inspiring his public broadcasts and Gove can certainly be credited with a commitment to making Amesbury a more inclusive city that rolled out the red carpet for its first Pride event.

If you read the piece I wrote after Mayor Gove’s inauguration speech, you’ll know that I was inspired by her implied message that she wanted Amesbury to be a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — a town that is accepting, inclusive & known for kindness.

In her speech, she also stated her willingness to be transparent and accountable. Some may argue about the degree of her transparency, but I’d invite them to read my follow-up piece that chronicles her first year in office.

According to the Newburyport Daily News article above, acting Police Chief Bailey is willing to be transparent and accountable as well.

“Chief Craig Bailey will be “Talking the Beat” on Facebook Live. Bailey is the first area police chief to commit to a monthly Facebook Live appearance, which he said was inspired by Mayor Kassandra Gove’s weekly web addresses and question-and-answer sessions.

“I think it’s an interesting format and an interesting way to make the Police Department and myself a little bit more vulnerable to the public,” Bailey said…we need to be able to put ourselves out there and answer the tough questions.” — The Newburyport Daily News, June 30, 2021

Did I read that right? A Police Chief wanting to be vulnerable? A Police Chief willing to answer questions from Amesbury residents on a live broadcast?

Wow, what’s this town coming to? A place I’m loving more and more.

To me, these “firsts” are examples of Mayor Gove’s vision deepening its roots.

Amesbury’s Original Kindness Quotient

I think the mayor would agree that Amesbury already had many qualities of a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But like everything else, there’s always the potential to improve — to increase those qualities.

About six weeks ago I had a great conversation with Phil DeCologer, Executive Director of the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce who knows and loves Amesbury but also has the unique perspective of someone who has worked in various Massachusetts municipalities.

While chatting about this little city he stated “the people of Amesbury are so kind!” I was intrigued. All cities have their factions and tensions. Having seen some locally I asked him to tell me more about his experience of kindness in Amesbury. He described the intensely negative interactions among people in the other cities where he had worked. I was taken aback. He went on to sing the praises of the people of Amesbury and how well mannered we are compared to other cities.

I was delighted to hear his experience and felt even more inspired about Amesbury’s future.

I’ve lived here almost 20 years and didn’t have another town of this size to which I could compare. I have found the North Shore area to be much friendlier than the cities south of here where I lived in the past.

The city of Amesbury’s communications director, Caitlin Thayer affirmed the public’s thumbs up for the police chief’s new initiative: “We’ve seen quite a response from the community that just loves seeing the Police Department being so accessible and so open.”

But wait — there’s more. If you’ve already read the article it won’t be a spoiler that immediately following Chief Bailey’s first live broadcast he’s heading over to Amesbury’s first LGBTQ Pride event.

Hello Amesbury! You keep knocking my socks off! An awesome mayor who serves with transparency, a police chief willing to take our questions, and a Pride celebration!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Mr. Rogers would be proud.

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Christine Green

Christine Green

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