Earlier this year, current Lynn School Committee member Rick Starbard announced that he was not seeking re-election and would instead run for Councilor At-Large in this year's municipal election. Here, Starbard answers a few questions regarding his candidacy for City Council.
Why are you running for Councilor At-Large?
I guess my one word answer would be “perspective”. I have never aspired to be a “politician”. When I was leaving my teaching position at Lynn Tech after thirteen years to return to my business following a major expansion, there were decisions being made by schools administration and the school committee that negatively impacted that school that neither I nor my colleagues could comprehend. I began to look of the makeup of administration and the school committee and noticed that none had any technical education experience and that there were no LPS parents on the school committee. I felt that my perspective in both of those areas would have a positive impact, and I would like to think that after six years as a member of the school committee, it has.
During my time on the school committee, I had an inside view of many of the challenges that the city is facing. We have crumbling schools because we kicked the can on school replacement for close to twenty years, our challenges trying to meet school funding mandates and our inability to fund public safety and public works at proper levels while struggling to meet those mandates. The only way out of this is to raise the amount of cash that flows into the city’s coffers. This cannot be accomplished by raising taxes as our tax rates already place us at a competitive disadvantage. This has to come from investment with the emphasis on commercial investment.
I have always felt that people look to invest in Lynn at the crest of economic recoveries when other urban area real estate values are off the charts. The problem is that the last two times that this happened, the bottom fell out of the economy and these developments failed to reach their potential. I feel that Lynn is now better poised than it has ever been to catch this economic wave closer to the beginning than at the top and with so much available space, it is almost a blank canvas. As we start to paint the next picture of development on that canvas, I think that we need to have at least some members of the council that have business and commercial property owner experience, which I have had for over thirty years. Once again, I feel that my unique perspective through many years of experience will help me make a positive impact as an At-Large member of the Lynn City Council.
What qualifications, skills and/or experiences would you bring to the Lynn City Council, if elected?
I have owned my own business since I was nineteen years old. During that time I have learned a great deal through formal training and the school of hard knocks. Through the growth of my company I have been able to acquire commercial property to help stabilize my growth and overall security for my company and family. I think that business people think a little differently when it comes to making solid financial decisions. When making financial decisions, we must look at the overall return on investment and keep in mind that we must be good stewards of taxpayer money that had been entrusted to us. Business people also know that we grow by recognizing our competition as well as constantly analyzing, learning from and doing all that we can to stay ahead of our competition. In our case, our competition is the cities and towns around us. We need to have best practices in place to do all that we can to show why Lynn is a better place to live, play and do business in than our competition.
In business, I have learned a great deal from my colleagues and have always felt the need to give back to my industry to keep it growing and to help myself and my colleagues that run pro-active businesses stay at the top of an ever changing automotive industry. This involvement has instilled great knowledge of leadership qualities in me. I have been involved in almost every level of my trade organizations. I have served many years as President of the leading national and state automotive trade associations as well as helping to drive many local and national industry initiatives. I hold most of the top national industry certifications and my business is recognized in being in the top 5% of my industry nationally. I was also recently appointed by Governor Baker to the state’s Auto Damage Appraisers Licensing Board overseeing state regulations that govern the handling of every auto insurance claim in Massachusetts. I am also a proud member of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce and count on being a liaison between our business owners and the city of Lynn.
My close to twenty years of experience in Lynn Public Schools as a teacher and school committee member has given me the tremendous opportunity to meet, educate and work with many of our youth and the hard working folks that keep Lynn schools at the top of our urban areas. My unique perspective serving in these roles has also shown me the needs of our schools both with helping to meet the ever-changing challenges that our staff faces every day, to providing our students clean, safe and modern educational facilities in which to learn. From the time that we were awarded a new Marshall Middle School, I was a leader in the initiative to support the bond vote to help fund Lynn’s portion of the cost. With Pickering now in the pipeline for replacement, I plan on once again playing an active role in helping to drive that effort. I have walked Lt. Governor Polito through some of our schools that are in most need of replacement. I plan to continue to continue to work with the new school committee and our leaders in Boston to make sure that we no longer “kick the can” on our school’s needs.
I am a supporter and participant in many Lynn based organizations including serving as President of LYSOA (Lynn Youth Street Outreach Advocacy). I have made it a practice of returning the vast majority of money that I am given as a stipend for serving as a school committee member back to Lynn based organizations and I expect to continue as a member of the city council.
In your opinion, in what area(s) is Lynn excelling and in what area(s) is Lynn in most need of improvement?
I think that Lynn is making great strides in improving the downtown Lynn area. Much of this was started by development that has brought many young downtown buyers of condominiums. This began a perfect storm a few years back as these folks were looking at ways to make the downtown a better place to live and play as well as having a new, young, energetic city councilor that helped drive their efforts in a manner that had many longtime Lynn naysayers, (myself included), now regularly attending events that are taking place downtown. I also think that the opening of new restaurants and the expansion of entertainment at City Hall is also bringing not only Lynn folks into the center of the city but many people are coming from neighboring communities into Lynn to enjoy not only downtown but to enjoy affordable family entertainment at the Navigators games, Lynn Woods and the shoreline. I also think that the Lynn Police has done an outstanding job working with all available resources to greatly reduce the city’s gang population and are working diligently to make our streets safer than they were just a few short years ago. Even though we still have incidents that take place, I think that we have made great progress and we need to make sure that we can properly fund public safety to see improvements continue and not slip backwards. Lynn is also very fortunate to have many open spaces in the form of the woods, parks, the Common and the shoreline but we need to make sure that we properly fund various public safety and public works budgets to keep them safe and maintained.
I know that I keep harping on it, but the future success of our city depends on the job that our city leaders do on the development space available for development. We need to make sure that we are selling Lynn as the place to invest in now, not when everyplace else becomes unaffordable. We must use all resources available from folks like state Housing and Economic Development Secretary, Jay Ash who wants to make Lynn a priority but has stated that our city leaders need to be on the same page. While a lot of attention is paid to the Lynnway, there are many areas of the city that are ripe for development including West Lynn and the Boston Street area. We need to think about the long term impact of development on commercial properties and must meet with property owners to discuss future plans as well as streamline processes to create a culture that Lynn is a business friendly community in which to do business. While I acknowledge the fact that we must be cognizant of those in need, we also need to pay close attention to how many Lynn properties are being developed by non-profits. Once these properties fall off of the tax rolls, we must find a way to replace that loss of tax revenue. We must also keep an eye on the construction of large housing projects in areas where the addition of a large number of students will further exasperate the overcrowding crisis in some of our schools.
Why should Lynn voters cast their vote for you in November?
I will once again use the word “perspective”. This is an exciting time for Lynn. If I didn’t feel that my perspective was the perfect fit for this particular time in our city’s growth, please believe me that I would not be running for this position. I am afraid that if we do not have councilors in place that possess diverse backgrounds and levels of experience, we will continue to repeat the same mistakes that have been made in the past. We are at a time when we need to learn from past mistakes, not follow the same course that permitted them. I think that we are at a time when there is great communication between the council, Mayor’s office, EDIC and Community Development and I respect and have positive relationships with the folks in all of those offices. I am a great listener and leader. During my six years on the school committee, I have a record of listening and making the decisions that I feel are best based on all available information even when I respectfully disagree with my colleagues. I love constituent service and take great pride in being able to solve problems for residents after they feel that they have exhausted all available remedies. I love this city. I love the diversity and the many positive attributes that the city offers and I truly believe that we are on the cusp of having great things happen in this city for the first time in a long time. I want to put to use my unique, unmatched experience as an educator, elected official, longtime business owner and leader to help this city grow at this great time as a new At-Large member of the Lynn City Council. I respectfully ask for your vote and support and once the mission is accomplished, I promise that I will not stay long so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labor and enjoy the perspective of those that follow.
For more information on Starbard's candidacy, follow his campaign on Facebook.