Yes, I am really running for Mayor of Salem, MA.

17 years ago Kim Driscoll ran for and won Mayor of Salem, MA as a virtual unknown, last month on social media I announced my candidacy to do the same. Perhaps you have noticed that new hashtag #SkipForSalem?  So who am I ? and why am I running for Mayor of Salem Massachusetts?

Who am I?

I was born in the Midwest, in a hospital in the City of Chicago in 1961 the oldest of 3 kids We moved to New Rochelle, NY in the summer of 1969 after my father recovered from shrapnel wounds he received while reporting as a CBS news producer in Vietnam. I grew up in New Rochelle which was then a middle-class suburb 30 minutes outside NYC. I graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1979.

I attended Northeastern University in the fall of 1981 and studied Communications as a major and Journalism as a minor. Northeastern did not have a lot of communication-related internships to choose from, let alone co-op assignments. So I needed to create my own. I went to student unions at Boston University and Emerson College and was very prompt in interviews. It worked and I did co-op placements with John Sullivan Associates and WGBH and honed my TV production skills. As I neared the finish line, I didn’t know I had dropped 4 classes over the previous 4 years. I had to take an overload of classes to finish with my peers. I made the dean’s list with high honors in my last two semesters and received my Bachelor’s degree on the old Boston Garden Parquet floor.

I worked at the Harvard Business School right out of college in multimedia support videotaping and post-producing video support materials used in the MBA program and executive education programs at HBS. I became an active member of the Harvard University Community and a master at linear and nonlinear editing while taking classes at night and participating in athletics for staff. I coached a staff men’s basketball team to a championship and coached a softball team to a second-place finish. I had become a successful big fish in a small pond but I wanted more so I left Massachusetts for Hollywood in 1991.

Hollywood was a tough nut to crack, we were headed into another recession back then and when I met with a family friend at Dick Clark Productions he told me to go home. I worked at DCP however and then at CBS on the soap The Young and the Restless as a production assistant. I worked long hours and reaped a few benefits. I took a break and moved to San Diego, CA at the advice of a friend. I spent the next 4 years working in sound lighting and staging for large events and bands in San Diego. I also became a green cross certified safety officer for the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. I also learned to surf and did so as often as I could. I returned shortly thereafter to Hollywood after working as a Production Coordinator on Spring Break 1994 for MTV in San Diego.

I spent the next several years working freelance in the Los Angeles area. I worked at CBS, ESPN, MTM, and DCP, and I also worked in staging corporate events. I then moved to the Bay area, and I became a very successful account manager in staging hi-tech trade shows in Silicon Valley. I did trade shows all over the US for clients and companies and then finally moved back and settled down in Massachusetts in 2001.

I met the woman who would later become the mother of my two fantastic children; CJ and Sabrina. CJ is currently living in Seattle and Sabrina is a Sophomore at UMass Amherst where she is an English major. 

In 2016 I was ready to purchase a home.  My daughter and I love Salem, Halloween, costumes, and the whole atmosphere of Halloween in Salem as a whole. So looking for a property in Salem was a no-brainer.  She not only picked out the condo but had already selected her room before I had closed…

Why am I running for Mayor?

I have an undying need to help others and that need has never been fully explored. Being Mayor will allow me to help as many of the 44,000-plus people who live here in Salem. I also told my daughter long ago that if Kim Driscoll ever left I would run for mayor of Salem and here we are. I told my late father the same thing shortly before he passed at 92 last summer and he offered his unwavering support if that were to ever come to fruition. My friends that go back 30 years are all very enthusiastic and supportive so again here we are.

I believe in love over hate, I believe that ALL people should be judged by the content of their character and little else. I have many friends and family members in the LGBTQ+ community and I am very supportive. I have marched in the North Shore Pride parade alongside a flurry of other allies.  I believe climate change is real. We will need to plan and prepare for its eventual impact on our great city. I believe in reducing our carbon footprint. I believe that we can create affordable housing so more middle-class families can live and raise children in Salem. I believe in Salem education and I will support the ongoing efforts that are showing promise with all my fiber. Charter schools are a wonderful alternative but alone will not solve the educational issues we currently have or serve as a long-term solution. The recent traffic patterns need to be reevaluated and updated where possible. I believe in a 5-cent deposit on all mini-bar or nip bottles so they can disappear from under our feet. I believe in affordable healthcare, taking care of our city’s people, and continuing the healthcare efforts started and maintained by Mayor Kim Driscoll. I also believe in taking care of our seniors and expanding programs for them.

Lastly, I still believe in leaving this world a better place when I leave than when I entered it.

Thanks for reading.

Robert A. “Skip” Bensley


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