BEVERLY — As a boy growing up in New London, Conn., Wes Slate remembers tagging along with his mother on Election Day, watching her disappear behind the curtain of the voting booth, exercising a right her parents were once denied.
Slate’s maternal grandparents grew up in the Azores, the islands off Portugal that at the time were ruled by dictatorship. When his grandfather and grandmother immigrated to the United States, they worked in the textile mills as a machinist and seamstress to carve out a living in their new country.
“They were real tough, hardworking people,” Slate said. “Basically, they came over here from nothing. When you grow up with that, you kind of absorb that.”
Slate, 63, is now touting those dual traits of hard work and respect for the democratic process as the defining characteristics of his campaign for mayor.
In what he acknowledges is an uphill climb, Slate is facing off against former City Council president and state representative Mike Cahill for the right to succeed Bill Scanlon, who is not running for re-election after a record 18 years in office.
While Cahill grew up in Beverly, is backed by a large family and has won six citywide elections, Slate is a relative newcomer to the city’s political scene. Until last month’s preliminary election, in which he finished second to Cahill by more than 1,000 votes, the three-term city councilor had never been on the ballot outside of his home Ward 2.
For that reason, Slate’s biography is not as familiar to voters. Those who know him only as the serious-minded city councilor with an affection for City Council rules and procedures might be surprised to know that he was once a high school drama teacher.
Slate said he caught the “acting bug” at an early age, inspired in part by competing for attention at the dinner table with his three siblings. He performed in his first play in seventh grade. As an English major at the University of Connecticut, he took theater classes and worked behind the scenes at school performances.