Made to be Mayor
When Gary Christenson JD'03 was elected mayor of his native Malden, Mass., in late 2011, it was the realization of a lifelong goal -- one he set for himself nearly 30 years earlier when he was elected class president at Malden High School. We caught up with the mayor near the end of his first year in office.
Based on your campaign platform, you have a lengthy to-do list! How's your first year as mayor going, and what do you feel is your biggest accomplishment to date?
The first year is going great, although I feel like I'm in my tenth year! I think the fact that we have increased communication with the community is our biggest accomplishment so far. From the use of social media to bi-weekly electronic newsletters, residents are more informed than ever, and that can only lead to a better city. I think a close second is the investment in our youth. We increased our summer jobs for teens from 130 in 2011 to 335 in 2012. We are also preparing to open a teen center and are offering recreational opportunities for our young adults.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced so far?
The increase in violent crime has been very challenging. We are adding nearly 10 police officers in a span of a year. We are also holding monthly Public Safety Awareness meetings around the city to offer crime prevention tips, and we have implemented periodic K-9 dog and motorcycle sweeps around the city. These initiatives, among others, seem to be helping.
What has surprised you the most about the job?
The time commitment, as I am literally on call seven days a week. I thought the job might be made easier with the use of social media, but now residents can find me more than ever!
In 2009, when you were city council president, Malden was recognized by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as the "Best Place to Raise Your Kids" in Massachusetts. How has the city changed since your childhood, and how do you hope it changes under your stewardship?
We are now the second-most diverse city in all of Massachusetts, and it's my hope that we will be known far and wide as a city where everyone can live, work, and lead productive lives.
What do you make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on large-sized sugary drinks?
I don't support it, although I always encourage living a healthy lifestyle. I think education is the key to success and I abide by what my mother always told me: "Everything in moderation, nothing in excess."
If you could rewrite one law, what would it be?
I think it would be to rewrite all state and federal laws dealing with unfunded mandates on cities like Malden. For example, the federal government is supposed to provide 40 percent for special education costs to Malden and at last check, it was providing less than 20 percent. This issue has been difficult for cities like Malden.
Do you have advice to alumni looking to get involved in local legislature, or to recent graduates considering a career in public service?
It has to be in your heart. If you are thinking about a career in public service to make money, then it's not the profession for you. But if you are interested in making a difference in people's lives, then I would recommend it.
Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Suffolk Law Alumni Magazine
PROGRAMS ADMISSIONS FACULTY OFFICES & SERVICES
Suffolk University Campus Calendar Campus Cruiser Portal Law Library Directories Site Map
Login Email Mission Statement Contact Us