Todd McGhee: “There is a lack of leadership” | Local News
Will Todd McGhee be the next Attleboro candidate to come out of nowhere to beat a popular candidate and become mayor?
McGhee campaigned fiercely – door to door. This is how the countryside works in most small towns and villages.
“This is what I knew I had to do,” he said in a recent interview.
It takes a lot of time and energy, but it works.
In 2003, Kevin Dumas came out of nowhere to beat six-term incumbent Judy Robbins, who at the time was the second-longest-serving mayor in city history, passed only by Cyril Brennan, who served eight terms of office in the 1950s and 1960s.
But Dumas, whose childhood dream was to become mayor, sensing weakness and weariness in the electorate, he organized a campaign committee and ran.
He then served seven terms before State Representative Paul Heroux, who had no trouble being elected three times at Beacon Hill, defeated Dumas in 2017 after campaigning door to door – by bike.
Dumas was the first openly gay mayor and if McGhee wins he will be the city’s first black mayor.
Now Heroux is running for what he says is his third and final term as mayor.
McGhee dates his decision to confront Heroux to a day in June 2020 when a demonstration took place in Capron Park to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin. Chauvin has since been sent to prison for this crime.
The protest was organized by a student from Bishop Feehan High School and had nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter group, although all three words were chanted.
McGhee, who is a member of Feehan’s board of directors, was there to talk about his experiences of over 23 years in law enforcement.
Newspaper articles noted that Heroux, the last speaker of the day, met with crowd refusal when he began to tout the local police department.
McGhee said Heroux started talking about his own accomplishments, which shocked all 300 protesters.
“It was during this rally that I saw a leadership gap,” said McGhee. “It’s hard to determine the lens he was looking through, but he took the opportunity to talk about his own accomplishments and it went very badly quickly.
“The message he brought changed the tone of the rally,” McGhee said. “That’s not what they wanted to hear.”
McGhee said Heroux was not good at ‘reading the room’ and that was when the seed was planted for his own mayoral campaign.
While the phrase ‘out of nowhere’ is used to express the unexpected emergence of someone or something, no one comes out of nowhere – and this is true of Todd McGhee.
At least half of his family history emerged from the sufferings of slavery and between himself and his father James, the two totaled over half a century in the service of the nation and law enforcement.
Successive generations have “conquered,” as the protest song says, first the chains, then segregation and prejudice and have pursued and achieved their own American dreams.
McGhee was born in a naval hospital in Philadelphia, also the cradle of American freedom in 1776, 85 years before the Civil War, which would ultimately free those chained to slavery.
His father served 22 years in the US Navy before embarking on a career in law enforcement.
McGhee was a six-year-old and grew up in a mining town called Fairchance, Pennsylvania.
He says it was and is such a small town that you would miss it if you clicked your eyes as you walked through it. It’s on Route 857 also known as Morgantown Street.
When McGhee’s dad graduated from high school, he had three choices for his future.
“He could get in trouble and go to jail, he could work in the coal mines and die young from black lung disease or he could join the military,” McGhee said.
So he joined the army.
His rank was 1st Class Petty Officer Gunners and among his other assignments he made two tours of Vietnam on a gunboat patrolling the rivers. He was injured and received a Purple Heart.
Later, due to his experience in Vietnam, he urged his son Todd not to join the military and encouraged him to go to college instead.
When James retired from the Navy he joined the Federal Protective Service and after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was in charge of all uniformed security operations around the site, which according to the McGhee’s words, “was a massive crime scene”.
This mission lasted a year.
McGhee’s mother, Florida J. McGhee, grew up as the daughter of a sharecropper in Fayette, Mississippi.
Born in 1932, barely 67 years after the end of the Civil War, she grew up in the racist south where war veterans still marched and statues of Confederate heroes abounded.
She was the youngest of 12, many of whom went on to become successful business owners, doctors and judges, McGhee said.
The ancestry on his mother’s side is known.
“My great-great-grandfather was born into slavery and was valued at $ 300 as a child,” McGhee said. “His father Delaney Jackson was valued at $ 1,350 and both were owned by Samuel Scott who owned four plantations and over 130 slaves.”
Her mother told her stories of segregation that ruled her life as she was growing up.
Sadly, his mother passed away at the age of 89 on September 21, the day her son won the town’s preliminary elections and the right to face Heroux in the November 2 election.
“I carry it with me,” he said, pulling out a photo showing the program of his funeral service.
His father passed away several years ago, as did his older brother, Carlton.
McGhee only really became aware of the world around him in the 1970s, after the racial turmoil, violence and conflict of the 1960s. That decade saw the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the presidential candidate Robert Kennedy and Civil Rights Leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In 1972 there was the attempted assassination of Alabama Governor George Wallace, a segregationist.
In the late 1960s, the family moved to the Academy Homes Project at Jackson Square in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.
James was still in the Navy, but was sending money home in Florida to be saved for the family’s first home, which turned out to be at 481 Broadway in Lynn.
The McGhee family moved there, an all-white neighborhood, in 1972. Todd McGhee, born in 1964, was 7 when they moved in.
He said he had never experienced racism at Academy Homes or Lynn, with one exception.
“A car full of children drove by and used the n word one day,” he said. “But that was it.”
At the project, everyone got along well and Lynn’s neighbors were great, he says.
“Lynn was so diverse that we had no problem with the race,” he said. “Everyone got along.”
It was a good place to live.
“Lynn has been good to me,” McGhee said. “Lynn was nice to my family. “
Leisure was not far away.
“There was a nice pond across the street where we used to go fishing,” he recalls.
Like Attleboro, Lynn is an old mill town. But instead of jewelry, they made shoes.
There were four secondary schools: two public, the Sainte-Marie parish school and a vocational secondary school.
McGhee graduated in 1982 from St. Mary’s, where he played four sports: baseball, soccer, track and field and basketball.
In his senior year, he was a second-team all-star on the basketball team that won his region’s state championship.
Following in his father’s footsteps, he attended Northeastern University in Boston and enrolled in the criminal justice program.
It was a five-year co-op program that provided post-graduation work opportunities.
He graduated in June 1987 and in July was undergoing a six-month training program for employment with the Motor Vehicle Registry Police Department.
It started McGhee’s career in law enforcement.
Eventually, the registration police and other police departments were merged with the state police.
One of McGhee’s most dangerous assignments as a registration officer was stopping cars in the Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods of Boston during a time of high gang and drug activity, which often sparked off. violence.
He and his fellow police officers routinely confiscated illegal drugs and firearms.
At other times in his career, he was an accident reconstruction specialist, arson investigator and forced drill instructor at the municipal police training academy.
His father first educated him on extremism and terrorism, and after 9/11 it became his career goal.
The last 10 years of his law enforcement career were spent fighting terrorism at Logan International Airport in Boston, and he became the lead trainer for that mission.
On patrol, he and his colleagues carried MP5 machine guns.
“This is the first time I have seen the militarization of the police,” he said.
McGhee’s training and experience at Logan ultimately led him to a private firm advising on counterterrorism methods in the United States and abroad.
He has worked with the US State Department and has traveled to 11 different countries since 2015 on counterterrorism training missions.
He moved to Attleboro with his wife Nicole (also his campaign manager) and his then young family about 20 years ago.
Her daughter Brianna graduated from New York University in 2016 and works for PBS in Providence.
His son Kendall studied at Regis College in Weston.
And now he’s got a new goal in mind, and that’s the corner office at Town Hall.
This lack of leadership he felt during the demonstration to protest the murder of George Floyd over a year ago is something he believes he can fill.
There are also quality of life issues that go unaddressed and need to be addressed, he said.
The rat infestation that has been reported across town is one he cited, creating more affordable housing is another.
He wants to avoid the loss of public security personnel in the police and fire departments and to add adaptation advisers to the school service.
Its governance style will be one of collaboration, McGhee said.
He said his extensive experience in the public sector, the private sector and on the streets would be a boon to Attleboro.
He denounces the loss of respect in discussions on political issues and hopes to bring it back.
“We are at a time when we have lost civil discourse,” McGhee said. “It’s terrible.”
He said his business would be “on hold” as he takes care of the city’s business full time.
And there is something else he carries with him that he hopes to spread.
“My parents taught me that there is no place for racism in our home or hatred towards another human being,” he said. “Everyone deserves dignity and respect. “