Attleboro's recently retired fire chief, Ronald M. Churchill, wasted no time hitting the streets to talk to residents after officially putting his name in the race against Mayor Kevin Dumas for the title of Attleboro mayor on Tuesday.
Churchill started his career as a police officer in 1967, but then became a firefighter after his dad (a fire chief) told him he was wearing the wrong uniform. Churchill put that uniform to rest last year and says he is now ready for the next phase of his life as a public servant.
Respect, admiration, professionalism, leadership and dedication were just a few words that city and state officials used to describe Churchill when he retired from his 43-year career with the city of Attleboro's fire department.
Churchill hopes that his decades of service to the community and knowledge of Attleboro will come into play in his race for mayor.
Sitting with his wife Natalie on Wednesday at a place where everyone knows his name, , he made three things very clear:
- "The city should come first before politics."
- "This is not a career for me. I don't need this job, but I want this job."
- "I am going to avoid a negative campaign. I am not running against him, I'm running for the office, he just happens to be running too."
In between shaking hands with customers at the local restaurant on Wednesday, the chief shared his thoughts on what he would change if elected as mayor.
Churchill discussed a back to the basics way of running the city. Right now it is about survival, he said.
"Our industry has disappeared," Churchill said. "Hundreds of homes are in foreclosure, right now it's about surviving until we get better."
The former chief made it clear that he is not against hanging Christmas lights in the business district or continuing efforts to bring business to the city, but said a back to the basics approach to running the city is necessary.
That, he said, includes taking a closer look at the city's comprehensive plan among other things.
"One thing I want to know is where is the bond money and what are our capital needs," Churchill said. "The cost to run the city is more than we having coming in revenue."
If elected, Churchill said he wants to focus his efforts on the city's water, a basic resource that many take for granted.
"They are using water as a cash cow," Churchill said about the city and its water rates. "We have good water, but our delivery system needs major upgrades.
"I would need to talk to a lot of people, not just those in Attleboro (about the problem)," he added. "We continue to have breaks. We have a lot of dead ends."
"We have done a lot of things that have not come to fruition," he said. "We have too much on the streets and not enough in the pipes," Churchill said referring to the flooding on County Street, Riverbank Road, Steere Street and Bishop Street.
Churchill would not comment on his exact reason for running for mayor, but did say if elected he will not take the salary increase set for the incoming mayor.
"I’m not going to take it," he said. "I'm not going to take what he is even making now.
"Do I think he deserves it? That’s not an issue. Last year people got furlough– it’s bad timing."