By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — If you’re looking for some political shock, consider the sudden and unexpected emergence of a new candidate for mayor.
Firefighter Tyler Kimball said he’s been considering a run for the corner office of City Hall for a long time and only recently announced his write-in/sticker campaign. He said he wants to give voters in Haverhill a choice.
“I’m rolling it out in small increments to build the excitement and awe of what’s going on,” he said about what he calls a fast-moving grass-roots sticker campaign. “And I love a challenge.”
As of late yesterday afternoon, Kimball had 186 “likes” on his “Kimball for Mayor” Facebook page. Comments included those of residents asking where they can obtain lawn signs.
“Do you have yard signs?” one person posted. “If so, 203 Groveland St., as big a sign as you want!”
Kimball isn’t running your typical campaign. He didn’t start it early in the year, and by choice he didn’t take out nomination papers, meaning his name will not appear on the ballot.
“Elections last too long and this country has more things to focus on,” Kimball said. “Maybe this will start a trend.”
Mayor James Fiorentini is seeking a record sixth-consecutive term in office and had no challenger until Kimball’s surprise announcement.
“I never thought I’d run completely unopposed,” Fiorentini said. “Since the modern strong mayor form of government began the 1960s and as far as back as 1870, no mayor has ever run unopposed, to the best of my knowledge.”
Kimball has been an official in the city’s firefighters union, which has feuded with the mayor in recent years over short staffing, saying it put the public in danger. Several years ago, Fiorentini had private detectives tail firefighters who called in sick and filmed them moving furniture and going to youth sporting events. In 2008, Kimball, then union president, engaged in a feud with Fiorentini over contract negotiations and sick-time use by firefighters.
Kimball said he’s no longer a union official and that his running for mayor has nothing to do with the union.
“I will not start a negative campaign against the city,” he said.
Fiorentini said Kimball’s announcement isn’t going to change how the mayor is campaigning.
“I’m not going to do anything different that what I’m doing,” Fiorentini said. “I’ll continue to concentrate on running the city and going out and meeting people.
“You can never take people for granted,” the mayor added. “Voter confidence is always something that has to be earned. And going door to door gives me an opportunity to meet with voters and see what’s on their minds.”
Fiorentini said he had no criticism of Kimball.
“Everyone has the right to run,” Fiorentini said. “This is America.”
There is passion in Kimball’s eyes and in his voice when he talks about his desire to give voters another option for mayor. He says he’s very serious about his campaign, regardless of how late he announced his candidacy.
“I’m giving it two weeks of my life and I believe I only need 336 hours to get the job done,” Kimball said, looking ahead to the Nov. 5 election. “There are 168 hours in a week and I don’t believe in wasting a minute.
“Win, lose or draw, this is, what it is,” he said.
To further distance himself from the typical campaign, Kimball said he is neither asking for or accepting a penny in campaign contributions.
“This is all from my heart and every expense is on me,” he said.
Because Kimball is running a sticker campaign, it means to cast a vote for him would require writing in his name or attaching a sticker with his name on the voting ballot.
Kimball said he carefully reviewed the state’s election laws and recommendations regarding a write-in or sticker candidates and said he notified the city clerk of his intentions on Tuesday morning.
“I have 30,000 stickers printed and every registered voter will have one beforehand,” Kimball said. “More surprises are on the way.”
Kimball said the city election ballot will have a blank line for entering the name and address of a sticker candidate, along with a box for checking off that name as well.
Kimball, 50, is an acting lieutenant on the city’s Fire Department and in the past served one year as the union president.
In all, he’s been on the force 31 years, the first five years as a Rocks Village volunteer firefighter.
“I love firefighting, but when I took the job I vowed to make the city a better place than when I started,” he said. “If I become mayor, I am responsible to the city for 168 hours a week.”
When he isn’t on duty as a firefighter, Kimball operates a large and successful farming business. Generations of his family have run Kimball Farm on East Broadway for 109 years and his family has been in Haverhill longer than that.
Kimball said his qualifications for mayor include knowledge he gained of the Fire Department budget when he was head of the firefighter’s union in 2008, as well as his experience in running a large farming business.
When asked if he was dissatisfied with Fiorentini as mayor, Kimball said he would not attack Fiorentini because he does not want to run a negative campaign.
“I feel I can improve on every area,” he said. “It’s as simple as, the mayor had his shot, and I’d like to cultivate a new seed.”
Kimball talked about the recent increase in crime in the Mount Washington area and said that as mayor he would lead by example.
“I won’t be in bed sleeping while crime is going on,” he said. “An ounce of prevention is 10 times cheaper than two pounds of cure.”
Kimball wants to better fund the police and fire departments, saying they city is in need of updated equipment and in need of updating old firehouses. But, he wants to accomplish these things without raising taxes. He said the city’s employees are its biggest assets and wants city workers to be proud of the job they do.
“I will have an open door policy in City Hall,” he said. “If you can’t say it in public, you shouldn’t be saying it.”
He said the same work ethic and long hours he brings to running a farm he’ll bring to running the city and expects city employees to follow his lead.
“The only thing in life you can’t buy is calluses,” he said. “I’ll invite them into my world as I believe in hard work. It’s that simple.”
Kimball said education will be his top priority and wants school children to get to know the names of police officers on a first-name basis by having officers visit schools. He vows to visit with students in every school on a regular basis so they get to know him too.
“We can correct the crime problem by getting to kids early and getting to know them,” he said.
Kimball said he would also focus on recruiting businesses to the city. As a businessman himself, he says he knows the challenges small and large businesses face in this economy.
Fiorentini said that Kimball’s campaign provides him with another opportunity to talk about what he called “the great changes and improvements we have been able to make in Haverhill over the past decade.”