Out of political office for the first time in a decade, he eventually went to work for the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs. As executive director, he lobbies state legislators on health-and-wellness issues of concern to the state’s 106 YMCA branches.
As an example, Cahill said he is advocating for state grant money to help eliminate “food deserts” in poorer communities, where the nearest grocery store might be miles away for residents who don’t have a car. The grant money could be used for something like helping local stores buy more freezer space to store healthy foods.
“YMCAs do a lot of quiet work day in and day out in communities all over the state to help people live healthy lives,” he said. “I wouldn’t leave this job for much. It’s great work. But clearly I have been ready to leave it for this opportunity.”
As mayor, Cahill said he would emphasize transparency and collaboration. He said there should have been more public awareness of the Brimbal Avenue project, which has drawn strong opposition from neighbors who said they were not included in the decision-making process.
As an example of how he operates, Cahill said he helped form a committee of state officials, neighbors and business owners when the Beverly-Salem bridge was built in the 1990s.
“People want transparency,” he said. “This is the way that I’ve always done things. We’ll be a stronger community when the community is engaged in the process.”
Although Cahill has deep roots in the city and a history of electoral success, he said he is not taking anything for granted. He said about 5 percent of the city’s population turns over every year, meaning there are plenty of potential voters who know little of his days as state representative.