, Salem, MA

November 8, 2013

Welcome to Rockafella's ... the new City Hall


---- — SALEM — It was an amazing election night, and not just because of all the upsets.

Election central shifted from City Hall to Rockafellas.

Instead of waiting for burly police officers to lug ballot boxes to City Hall, where clerks would chalk the results on a blackboard — a tradition from yesteryear that can take 90 minutes or more — a group of young Salem residents with laptops and iPads posted results almost instantaneously on a screen at Rockafellas, the downtown restaurant.

The credit largely goes to the Salem First Coalition, a group that formed after the 300-ballot debacle last winter at the City Council. Spearheaded by Chris Sicuranza and others, the group wanted to make sure an embarrassing incident like that wouldn’t happen again and dedicated itself to improving communication and building bridges.

In this election, Salem First set up a Web page where each candidate had a profile page.

On Election Day, the group had a representative at each polling place who tweeted or texted a photo of the final ballot box receipt from each precinct. The results went to Sicuranza or Dominick Pangallo, chief aide to Mayor Kim Driscoll, who were camped on a big couch in a corner at Rockafellas with their laptops and iPads. Those results were updated to a large screen at the restaurant, next to photos of the candidates. The word “winner” flashed on the screen, along with voting results.

Through the night, candidates and supporters filled Rockafellas to watch the results and listen to music by Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket, a band that included Andy Gerard, husband of Beth Gerard, the winner of the Ward 6 council race.

There were other election night parties at the Black Lobster, the Witch’s Brew, Bertini’s, Adriatic and Howling Wolf, but the big shindig was at Rockafellas, election headquarters for 2013.

Mayor Marty

On Election Day, state Rep. John Keenan was knocking on doors in Charlestown for Marty Walsh, Boston’s new mayor-elect.

Keenan was helping a fellow state representative and friend. But he was also repaying a debt.

Last Christmas Eve, Keenan was contacted by a constituent whose son had an alcohol problem and needed a place to go. Keenan gave the desperate man Walsh’s cellphone number.

A while later, the man called Keenan back.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “Walsh spent an hour and a half with me on Christmas Eve and helped find a place for my son.”

That’s not unusual for Walsh, a cancer survivor and recovering alcoholic, Keenan said.

“He’s had quite a life,” said Keenan. “To turn it all around and to want to reach out to help everybody else ... it’s a pretty amazing story.”

Scream Queen

Last Friday, the day after Halloween, a drag performer and recording artist named Sharon Needles was declared the first-ever Official Scream Queen of Salem by Go Out Loud, a local group.

A who’s-who of elected officials attended the ceremony at Hawthorne Hotel, including Ward 7 Councilor Joe O’Keefe, state Sen. Joan Lovely, Driscoll, Keenan and Congressman John Tierney.

Kevin Letourneau, the president of Go Out Loud, lauded Needles as a “fierce advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.”

Graduate gift

They held a dedication Saturday for the spectacular new fitness center at Salem State.

The Harold E. and Marilyn J. Gassett Fitness and Recreation Center is named for the late parents of Kim Gassett-Schiller, a 1983 graduate of Salem State.

Kim is married to Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple Inc.

Best campaign sign

Sure, the election is over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think back fondly on all the great campaign signs we saw.

Our favorite?

Probably the “Tom Furey for City Council” sign we saw on a lovely little street — in Danvers.

Dinner for two

Herbert Schild was the winner of the “Dinner For Two Anywhere In The World” raffle.

Driscoll and Ben Arlander, who was helping run the event, drew the winning ticket on Halloween.

Curiously, Schild bought the winning ticket from his wife, Leanne, who was volunteering at the Food For Thought cart on the pedestrian mall.

The raffle was a fundraiser for the Salem Education Foundation.

No word yet on where the Schilds are dining. We heard it’s down to Dube’s and Dotty & Ray’s.

Hey, don’t laugh, those are two of our favorite places.

Tom Dalton can be reached at