NEWBURYPORT — While it may have taken more than three decades, Mike Mullins is finally a U.S. citizen and will vote in this country today for the first time.
Mullins, a native of Melbourne, Australia, has lived in the U.S. – Newburyport, specifically – since 1983 and, as a co-owner of Stone Ridge Properties, has gone on to have a successful career in real estate.
Mullins’ wife is American, as are his four children, who grew up in the city. But Mullins didn’t surrender his green card until a few months ago.
“For about the first 20 years, you couldn’t be a dual citizen, you had to give up your other citizenship,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that. I lived in Australia a long time.”
An enthusiastic follower of politics, Mullins, 70, was disappointed that he couldn’t vote in the U.S. but it was during his return home from England last Christmas that he was prompted to finally become a U.S. citizen.
“As I got older, I thought about going back to Australia,” he said. “But my kids live in different parts of the states and I have grandchildren. So I’m not going back to Australia. I don’t think that would be fair to them and I would like to be involved in the political process at this stage. They busted my chops coming back from England and I said, ‘Hey, maybe I should move on this.’”
While Mullins said the immigration policies being pursued by the Trump administration did not play a direct role in his decision, “they didn’t help,” either.
“I could see it was going to get more complicated, the way the politics are playing out, and I do want to vote,” Mullins said. “I feel bad I haven’t voted in the past. I feel bad I didn’t vote in the last election.”
Mullins began moving along the path to citizenship in the spring and was granted dual citizenship over the summer when he finally surrendered his green card.
“Yeah, I felt a little like, ‘Wow ... .’” he said. “It still has a picture of me back in 1983. I was a bit more rough and ready back then.”
Mullins said he’s looking forward to voting in a U.S. election for the first time today.
“I should have done it a long time ago,” he said. “I am excited and I am a little nervous. I was reading up on the three ballot questions today.”
Deb Smith, the executive director of The Pettengill House, has a similar story to tell.
Smith, a native of Toronto, moved to Amesbury in 1986 and was just granted dual citizenship in November 2017.
“My decision was influenced by the political climate,” she said Monday. “I wanted to vote but was unable to and there was also an element of fear in my decision, I won’t say there wasn’t. This is my home and I had a fear of losing benefits that I have paid into for a lot of years.
“I think the climate of the past couple of years has left a lot of people paying a lot more attention to things,” she said. “Instead of it being apathetic, it is time to be able to vote. So I voted early.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.