The Chelsea Record conducted a question and answer interview this week with incoming City Manager Tom Ambrosino to hear his thoughts prior to stepping into his City Hall office.
City Manager Ambrosino will begin work on Monday, July 20, as his first official day.
Ambrosino said he is aware of many issues in the city already, and plans to hire a new Fire Chief and ISD Director right away. He also said he would like to emphasize more walking police patrols and would be looking for the possibility of additional oversight on the Clark Avenue School Building project.
Q: There is no permanent Fire Chief right now, and the status of the chief has been up in the air for two years or so. This week, we learned the long-time ISD Director is leaving his post. These are very key posts in City Government. Where do they fit on your priority list?
A: Both the highest priorities. I hope to commence the advertising for both positions in Week 1.
Q: With the Fire Department in mind, the overtime budget skyrocketed this year and went double the budgeted amount. It totaled more than $1 million all told. This was a major issue for the City Council, and one they’re not willing to let happen again. What do you plan to do to help solve this problem?
A: In the interim, I expect to work closely with acting Chief to watch this overtime on a weekly basis. Getting control of overtime will need to be priority for new Chief.
Q: Many people are talking about your Open Door policy. Many find that appealing and hope to be able to address concerns with you directly in such a manner. What will that policy look like in practical terms?
A: It generally means that anyone can call and seek an appointment with me. I might ask them to come in late at night or early morning, but I will make it a point to find time for them. Also, anyone who walks in the door will be free to talk to me, provided I am not already in a meeting or trying to complete some incredibly time sensitive task. The policy will be identical to how I operated in Revere, where most residents found that I was incredibly accessible. Just beware, I may not always give the answer that you want to hear!
Q: The Wynn Casino project is next door, and in a lot of cases closer to Chelsea than Everett. In Revere, you worked a lot early on with Suffolk Downs and their bid for a casino. How will you approach the Wynn proposal?
A: I will operate as if the Wynn casino is going forward, and I will seek to secure the most benefits possible for the City of Chelsea and its residents.
Q: The Silver Line is under construction here in Chelsea. How do you see that changing the City on first glance?
A: I see the Silver Line as an amazing opportunity for Chelsea’s future growth and prosperity. With direct access to both North and South Stations, Chelsea will have unique ability to market its location to businesses and residents. This is an absolute “home run” for the City, and it has my complete support. Whatever disruptions we must endure in the short term, and there will likely be many, will be far outweighed by its future benefits.
Q: The City is in the beginnings of a major school project at the Clark Avenue School. It’s going to be going on for several years and will need great coordination and communication from the City. What do you bring to the table in regards to managing such projects?
A: I do have experience in this area. We built 4 schools in Revere under my watch. But, you have to have good personnel watching the project closely. My first goal is to make sure we have the correct amount and quality of oversight. But, in the end, a new school can only enhance the quality of life in the City.
Q: Immigration and immigration status are major issues in Chelsea, probably more so than in any other city in the Commonwealth. There are a number of children who arrived from Central America last year and adults who have come without the proper paperwork. Though it’s largely a federal issue, what do you see as the City’s role in this situation?
A: I see the City’s role as one of ensuring that these individuals are safe and secure for whatever time they remain in this country, and I hope that they will consider the City government as a supportive environment and not as some enemy to be feared. From my perspective, as long as such individuals are not engaged in criminal activity that threatens the fabric of life in the City, the City has no reason to interfere with their efforts to secure a better future for themselves and their children in the U.S.
Q: Crime has been an issue in Chelsea and remains so. Gains have been made, but some would argue not enough. Do you have any ideas about how to make the public feel safe and be safe on the streets?
A: I think the City’s 10-point public safety plan, prepared by the City, the City Council and the Police Department in 2014, provides a good framework for addressing the issues. Some of those initiatives, like the hiring of additional officers and the task force on prostitution, are not yet fully implemented, and I will work to implement as quickly as possible. Others, such as walking patrols to create a sense of greater police presence in the community, are ones that perhaps require greater emphasis, and the Chief and I have already discussed making such walking beats a greater priority.
Q: During the tenure of the last City Manager, Everett Avenue was the major transformative area of the City. Where do you see Chelsea’s next great frontier?
A: I think the Waterfront and the Broadway corridor present two great and not yet fully tapped opportunities for the City.
Q: Finally, Chelsea is made up of what have come to be known as “stakeholders,” such as non-profit organizations and other such entities that have taken on a greater role in civic matters over the last few years. What will their role be
A: I expect those community-based organizations to play a very active role in all of my efforts. The strength of those organizations is one of Chelsea’s greatest attributes and set it apart from many other cities. They should expect close cooperation and collaboration with my Administration.