[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction. John Slattery did spend some of his childhood in Beverly, but later lived in Peabody and Saugus. He graduated from Saugus High School.]
says the key to getting anything accomplished on Beacon Hill is building consensus and making important legislation "palatable" to fellow lawmakers.
That's what Slattery, 53 and a candidate for state Senate in the 2nd Essex District, told a crowd of about 40 supporters in Danvers on Sunday. The informal afternoon meet and greet event was hosted by Democrat John Archer at his home.
Slattery had just come off a meeting with the Danvers Democratic Town Committee the day before as he ramps up his campaign efforts. He's also back in the political scene after a 10-year hiatus.
"I'm really excited about the campaign," Slattery said.
"You can't do anything by yourself, no matter what anyone tells you," Slattery said. "That's what I think the next senator has to do: go in and build consensus to get things done."
That's what eight years in the state legislature taught him and one aspect to the job -- consensus and communication -- that Fred Berry mastered in his three decades in office, according to Slattery.
The former Peabody city councilor and state representative is one of three candidates seeking to fill Berry's shoes in the Senate when .
The other two Democratic candidates vying to represent Peabody, Salem, Beverly, Danvers and Topsfield are of Peabody and .
Slattery said he successfully got a number of bills passed himself while on Beacon Hill, pointing to the state ban on assault weapons and an early teacher retirement bill, which had passed unanimously in the legislature but was amended by then Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci.
In addition to consensus on Beacon Hill, Slattery said, there also needs to be "shared responsibility" with local municipal leaders -- working closely with mayors, city councilors, selectmen, etc, to make sure they are all fighting for their communities' needs.
Slattery cited a few examples, such as the significant cost Danvers incurs for educating and busing homeless children housed in the town's motels.
Danvers is just one of several communities in Massachusetts in which the state contracts with local motels to house homeless families. And despite requiring the town to then provide school transportation -- in some cases back to the child's former district -- the state does not pick up any of that bill.
Slattery agreed the .
In Peabody, .
The city has been hashing out a comprehensive flood mitigation plan over the past six years that will keep the downtown open for business and safer for residents, but a major obstacle to progress is simply one of finances. Large federal and state grants aren't as plentiful as they once were, and Peabody just doesn't have $20 million to $30 million laying around.
Slattery said he has spoken with about flooding and knows it is a top priority.
Similarly, Slattery has spoken with Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and notes a key economic issue for the city is the -- it is one of Salem's top taxpayers.
Slattery spoke briefly on his reasons for being in the race and fielded questions from the room, on everything from public transportation to education and creating jobs at the local level.
Slattery said the latter two are linked together -- quality and access to good education in both high school and state-run colleges will turn out a better equipped workforce to provide small businesses with needed skills and innovation while also making new entrepreneurs who will in turn create new jobs.
He said Massachusetts has lost many of its manufacturing and construction jobs -- often higher-wage jobs that did not require bachelors' or masters' degrees -- and the absence has led to a greater degree of inequality in income for taxpayers. The situation subsequently hurts small businesses as well, he said.
Slattery argued the state is not committing the necessary resources now for education, particularly with community colleges, who are seeing greater numbers of students who did not get the quality education they should have in high school. He said the state should direct more of its discretionary budget dollars to education.
"We need to make sure the middle class has the skills, talents and training they need to be successful in business," he said.
At the heart of the solution, for Slattery, is education, which he said he came to fully appreciate through the influence of his wife's family. Slattery said that growing up, he managed through high school, but faced with four children to provide for as a single parent after his father died, his mother did not place a great focus on education. She herself had dropped out of high school.
But after meeting his future wife Nancy and getting married, he said, education was important to her family and it "rubbed off on him," which he in turn hoped to instill in their three children. He added that he worked his way through college and law school with a furniture moving company.
"I'm very susceptible and aware of the difference education can make in people's lives," he said.
On public transportation, Slattery said, he wants to continue working on the Blue Line project, which will bring the subway to Lynn, but further extend service into Peabody. Infrastructure is key in Peabody, which in turn is a gateway to neighboring communities, including Salem, he said.
Salem, which is a "tourism mecca," has to deal with a lot of traffic because of that and thus needs more public transit options, he said.
Slattery also said the region should continue to invest in the healthcare industry, building on to a complement of top-notch medical facilities. He hopes to see the North Shore become a "hospital mecca."
Among the supporters gathered Sunday were Peabody state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis and former Beverly Rep. and city councilor Michael Cahill. Spiliotis succeeded Slattery in the House when he decided to run for Lt. Governor in 2002, and Cahill served with Slattery for several years in the House until he also decided to run for statewide office in 2002, taking a run at state Treasurer.