New Council President Has Seen Best and Worst of Chelsea

January 9, 2014
By
Matt Frank being sworn in as President of the Chelsea City Council by City Clerk Deborah Clayman.

Matt Frank being sworn in as President of the Chelsea City
Council by City Clerk Deborah Clayman.

When new Council President Matt Frank was growing up in the Mill Hill area of Chelsea, it wasn’t during the often-discussed “glory days.”

Broadway wasn’t a thriving business district, and the neighborhoods weren’t bustling, there wasn’t a half dozen cozy Kosher delis and there weren’t three movie houses or a dozen financially-sound banks.

There was nothing to wax poetic about for Frank.

In fact, when Frank, 32, was growing up, the City was broke, things were in shambles and the public schools were not recommended for even the strongest of resolves.

Frank is likely the first Council President who comes with the memory of what the City was like when it had bottomed out.

“When I was growing up, it was a very different time for the schools and the City,” he said in a recent interview after being elected President on Monday. “I went to Catholic school because you really couldn’t go to the public schools back then. I think I’m probably one of the first councillors that was here and grew up when the City was going into and in bankruptcy. I don’t really know the ‘glory days’ that people talk about because I was born into a Chelsea where we didn’t have the streets swept and we didn’t have Christmas lights one year because they couldn’t afford it. I tend to look back at that and that’s my frame of reference when I think of budgetary matters.”

It’s a perspective that few have, but one that Frank carries with him.

It doesn’t mean that Frank’s ancestors didn’t know those good ol’ days though. In fact, he told the Record that he can count himself as the fourth generation of his mother’s family to live on Mill Hill.

“My great grandfather lived on Broadway and I still have family in that home today,” he said.

Growing up in Chelsea, Frank was very active in the Boy Scouts – earning the prestigious Eagle Scout designation with the troop out of Our Lady of Grace Church. That experience is something that he’s carried with him into adulthood.

“I’m definitely prepared and I tend to think things through before I do them,” he said. “I’m a big believer in having kids being involved in activities where they learn leadership skills. If you’re in an activity where adults just tell you what to do, you become an adult who just does what people tell you. That’s one reason I’m still such a big supporter of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts here. They teach those skills.”

After high school, Frank attended Salem State University and majored in political science. He also worked paid internships with former State Sen. Jarret Barrios and U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

As President, Frank said he will put more emphasis on sub-committees – getting rid of some committees and encouraging members to work out issues within committee instead of before the full board.

“I really have a plan to emphasize the sub-committees again,” he said. “Sub-committees are where you can have real conversations and really get into the details. When you have 11 councillors in the room and a few consultants, you can have 15 people talking. That might be good for a presentation, but not if you’re trying to get down to the nitty-gritty.”

He said he plans to call a meeting of the Rules Committee in order to consolidate the committees. There are currently 11 committees and he said he believes that can be pared down.

Other issues he said he wants to work on are being prepared for the potential of  City Manager Jay Ash moving on to a bigger job after this year’s Gubernatorial election, upping the involvement of candidates for public office, and discussing casino issues.

“I’m not saying that Jay would leave, but I think the City Council should be prepared for any change in the City Manager position and now is a good time to make sure we’re operating at full capacity,” he said.

About the School Committee’s lack of candidates he said, “When you have seats where you have no names on the ballot for the same seat time after time, you have to figure out how to fix it.”

Frank will assume his duties as Council President at the next City Council meeting.


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