Steve Kerrigan ate lunch with his dog Cooper at the Marketplace Cafe on North Street in Pittsfield on Friday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Steve Kerrigan remembers being on the phone with former Mayor Gerald Doyle trying to figure out how to give the city a chance to survive its largest economic collapse — the closure of General Electric.
"We spent two years working with the EPA, the city, state DEP and with General Electric to make sure that we pumped the brakes a little bit and thought about what was right for the community, the environment, and economic growth," Kerrigan said during an interview on Friday.
"We came up with the consent decree that we signed. That allows for the development at the G.E. facility that PEDA is working on now. Imagine if we hadn't done that. There would be double-lined fencing around that whole facility and God only knows what would happen."
If G.E. had just walked away, Kerrigan said, there wouldn't have been a cleanup and the city wouldn't have control over what is known as the William Stanley Business Park. Kerrigan was a legislative aid for the U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy then and he says "we got [G.E] to the table and kept them there."
It was also in the 1990s when word spread that Crane & Co. was about to lose the contract to make U.S. currency. Kerrigan was called in to help negotiate that contract and keep the money flowing in Dalton. He worked with Soldier On to get funding for that start up and he was part of the team putting together the federal appropriation to redevelop the Colonial Theater.
Now, Kerrigan is pointing to his career bringing people together both on the federal level for Kennedy, on the state level for former Attorney General Tom Reilly and on the municipal level as a finance committee and board of selectmen member in Lancaster as why voters should elect him as lieutenant governor.
"I have spent 25 years working as a local elected official — not studying local governments — in my town, facing my family and friends to talk about the issues that are important to them and prioritizing budgets in a real, strong way," Kerrigan said.
"I've worked all across Massachusetts and the country under Sen. Kennedy fighting to raise the minimum wage in the 90s — not just when it was a ballot initiative and we knew it was going to get passed. We fought for years on the federal level. We fought for funding like here with the Colonial Theater so we can rehab beautiful buildings like that."
Outside of that, Kerrigan founded two nonprofit organizations, headed the Boston Democratic National Convention, served on two inaugurations for President Barack Obama and was the CEO of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
"I am the only candidate with local, state, federal experience and experience in the nonprofit world. I can bring those experiences together and bring folks to the table to really help make government work again," Kerrigan said.
After being behind the scenes for most of his career, this year he launched a bid to be the next lieutenant governor. He has stormed out of the gates and won the Democratic convention - reeling in support from more than one-third of the delegates at the Democratic convention.
Now, he hopes to continue the momentum and win the Democratic nomination to be on the ticket.
"We won the convention and it felt great. This is my first time running for office so winning the convention was a real sign that the work we've been doing, the grassroots organizing we'd been doing across the commonwealth, paid off. It was a real charge for the team," Kerrigan said.
Heading into the convention, he had 10 mayoral endorsements, four sheriffs and numerous legislators — including state Sen. Benjamin Downing. Kerrigan says that shows that he will be one to fight for the cities and towns.
"They know they'll have a partner in me," Kerrigan said of officials on the municipal level.
He says he will work "in partnership" with the Democratic nominee to craft an agenda for the entire state. And immediately that needs to include looking at tax incentive programs and agency operations to start showing the taxpayer "we have respect for the sacrifices they make every day in paying their taxes."
Local aid and Chapter 70 school funding are of most concern for Kerrigan, who says he knows how important those funds are on the local level.
"Our formula for school funding has only been looked at three times since education reform was done 21-years ago and it was supposed to be looked at every two years. We need to take a long look at that and make sure the cities and towns are getting the resources they need," Kerrigan said, when asked what his primary goal would be once elected.
Without being the top name on the ticket, Kerrigan says the person means more. While the governor's seat outlines the vision, the lieutenant governor position both helps lay out that agenda but also makes sure that vision is being fulfilled, Kerrigan said.
"For me, this isn't about promises or pledges. This is about results and getting things done. It has never been about showboating for me. It has been about finding a problem, tackling it, getting the right folks in the room and moving our commonwealth forward," he said. "I don't care if the job title is 'chief cook and bottle washer' as long as I get a chance to make a real difference in people's lives."
He later added, "there are great ideas and promises out there for what folks hope to do. I've done them."
All three Democratic governor's are "far better" than the Republic Charlie Baker will be, Kerrigan said. And he feels he will work with with whichever Democrat heads the ticket.
And for Berkshire voters, he adds that both Baker and his running mate Karyn Polito are from the eastern part of the state, so the Democrats would be better served by someone who knows the whole state.
"I believe the commonwealth needs a lieutenant governor who understands the issues of Western and Central mass," Kerrigan said.
Kerrigan is vying for the Democratic position against Melrose-native Mike Lake; and Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung.
One of those three candidates will be paired with the gubernatorial candidate on the Democratic ticket. Steve Grossman, Martha Coakley and Donald Berwick are the three candidates still in contention or that office on the Democratic side.