In a town that has consistently been one of the few GOP strongholds in the state and produced a Republican U.S. senator, one may think that a Democratic candidate for Congress may not find Wrentham the most welcoming play to be on the campaign trail. Yet, Democratic congressional candidate Joe Kennedy III received a warm welcome while making campaign stops yesterday at the Wrentham Public Safety Building to talk to members of the Wrentham Fire Department and at the Wrentham Senior Center.
The stop in Wrentham was just one of the many appearances that Kennedy has made during the campaign. Prior to arriving in Wrentham at approximately 10:45 a.m., the campaign had already made appearances in Wellesley and Franklin and had events and appearances planned in Taunton, Millis, and Sharon during the afternoon and evening.
“We’re closing in on over 180 events we’ve done in the district. We’re just trying to get out there and meet as many people as we can, give them an opportunity to meet me, and hopefully build up for a primary, ask people for their support and eventually their vote and hopefully it carries us through September and on into November,” Kennedy said.
Not coming as a surprise, the big issue in Wrentham and the rest of the district has been jobs and the economy. With the country still not recovered from the recession, the demand for jobs has been high across the district.
“The number one issue on people’s minds is jobs and the economy. People need to get back to work across the entire district,” Kennedy said. “People aren't asking for a handout, they’re just asking for the tools to do what they can with what they got. You feel a real frustration that they’re playing against a stacked deck where no matter what they do they’re not getting that fair chance.”
A visit with the Wrentham Fire Department put the spotlight on a town service that is in desperate need of funding. While talking with firefighter Tony Marino, Kennedy was exposed to the underfunding that the department has had to go through.
Only able to send out three members of the department to an incident instead of the usual four, Marino gave incident after incident where they sent out an understaffed crew and felt they were in a position where they would be in trouble if they were needed at multiple incidents at the same time. Just a transport from Wrentham from Norwood Hospital can reduce the available on duty firefighters from four to just two. In addition, the town is left unattended to when the fire department is needed at Gillette Stadium.
With training being cut too, Marino has showed frustration that him and his fellow firefighters cannot make of the best out of the situation without the training they feel they need for the job.
“If they expect us to continue to do more with less, we need to be efficient at what we do. We need to be trained, we need to be sharp, we need to do more with less,” Marino told Kennedy.
There is hope for the Wrentham Fire Department though regionalization. The plan which would involve Franklin, Wrentham, Norfolk, and Plainville, would put all four dispatchers in the Wrentham Public Safety Building to efficiently use town resource better so if one town needed help, another town could react quicker with everyone in the same room.
“We don’t have coverage in the west end of town. It takes 12-15 minutes to get out there on a good day and you just can’t get there. We need to put man power out there so with a regionalized service you would be able to man our second station out there if you could get the people on board,” Marino said.
Despite this, the Fire Department is need of new equipment. Currently their top piece has over 100,000 miles on it and recent equipment including an automated CPR machine, a defibrillator, and life packs were only acquired with the help of a private donation. Currently, Marino is fighting just to get a basic defibrillator in the police cruisers just to have basic life support on them.
By the end of the visit, it was clear that the department was in a position where they felt they need more resources but lacked a solution that didn’t involve more money.
“I think part of it is priorities and part of it is also about making a public appeal to the public to understand when somebody is in a car accident or someone has a heart attack, or your house is on fire, I think people expect that the authorities are going to show up and they’re going to show up with the tools that they need in order to save your loved one or save your home or to save your office or building. To let people know that some of those services really are in jeopardy given the tough fiscal time that we’re at,” Kennedy said afterwards.
A more lighthearted affair, the Senior Center gave some of the older residents of Wrentham a chance to discuss Medicare and even wish Kennedy luck in the upcoming election.
One of the attendees at the senior center, Hillie Benedetti, told Kennedy to not let anyone push him around, later commenting that she thinks that we would do great if Kennedy were to get elected.
While there were a few laughs, there were some serious discussions on senior health care and cost control. Many of the attendees however, were just happy to see Kennedy.
In the Democratic Primary, Kennedy does have two challengers in Rachel Brown, a LaRouche activist and Herb Robinson who is a software engineer. The State Primary will take place on Thursday, September 6.