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Q&A CELEBRITY SERIES with Gus Bickford: Chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party Discusses Role

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Gus Bickford, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, has spent 20 years as a survey researcher and database developer for Democratic and progressive organizations. He has administered voter contact programs for the Democratic Parties of Connecticut, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, and for the Presidential Campaigns of John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Bickford has managed the modeling, fundraising, and voter contact programs for many organizations. He lives in Westford with his wife Kathleen “Toody” Healy.

Bickford stopped by the WestfordCAT studio on Feb. 17 to dish with News Director Joyce Pellino Crane. His interview will air next week as part of the “Main Street, Westford,” Celebrity Series. 

Let’s get to the obvious…why Westford?

I have lived my entire life in the area, raised in Carlisle and Concord and I married Toody Healy and her family is significantly established in Westford.

How long have you lived in Westford?

Toody and I were married in 1992 and we bought our house in Westford that year.

Why are you a Democrat?

There are many reasons.  I believe the Democratic Party is the Party of fairness, equality, opportunity, and many of the values that I hold dear.

My parents loved Bobby Kennedy and one of his many great quotes highlights the complexity of being an American and I believe the Democratic Party strives to protect this vision of Government: “Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men’s lives. Everything that makes man’s life worthwhile — family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children and a place to rest one’s head — all this depends on the decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people, and I mean all of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer — not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people.”

I believe that quote sums up the heart of why I am a Democrat.

Tell us why you opposed Question 2 on increasing the number of charter schools in the state.

The formula that was being used to raise the cap on Charter Schools was not fair to 351 communities and would have taken billions of dollars away from the public school systems in these communities. During the campaign, we highlighted this issue in each community and it resonated with voters in every corner of the Commonwealth.  Until the funding issues are addressed properly, Charter Schools will pose problems for Public Education.

Why do you oppose privatizing the T (public transportation)?

There are certain systems in our government where, because there is no competition, having a government agency provide the service makes more sense.  As a taxpayer, we have more oversight if it’s a public agency.  It hasn’t worked for Commuter Rail and as a commuter I don’t know who to complain to about Keolis. When it was a public agency, you knew who directed it, you knew who and how much everyone was paid.  It was much more transparent.

Do you have any candidates in mind for challenging Gov. Charlie Baker in a few years?

I believe that over the coming months as we gear up towards the 2018 election, there will be many qualified candidates looking to challenge Gov. Baker for the Corner office and I look forward to working with all of them.

What’s Factotum Productions?

Factotum Productions is my consulting company that provides many services from survey research, database development, software development, and organization planning.  The definition of a factotum is an employee who does all kinds of work.  My company did just that for 15 years.

You consulted for Hillary Clinton in 2008. Did you also assist with the recent campaign?

As a consultant, I worked for her campaign during the Massachusetts Primary.  As a volunteer, I supported her campaign throughout the cycle.

Why do you think the polls were so wrong?

Polls are snapshots in time and when we read their results, they are reflecting the mood of a sample group of people and reflect opinions held at 7 days prior to release.  If the sample isn’t created correctly to match the electorate, it will give you an incorrect impression.

What other big names have you consulted for?

Niki Tsongas, Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry, Martha Coakley, Eileen Donoghue, and Jim Arciero.

Why was the race in Massachusetts between Clinton and Sanders so close?

We had two great candidates, one from the neighboring state of Vermont and one whom many thought was the most qualified candidate to ever run for President.  Both candidates gave our voters hope and, I believe, their positive messages resonated with the voters.

What are you passionate about?

Making a difference for people so that we all can enjoy life.

Tell us about your childhood?

I grew up next door in Carlisle.  My father was a lawyer in Boston and a selectman for the town for 9 years.  My mother was active in many organizations but, sadly, she had cancer and died when I was twelve.  I loved sports and many of my youth and school teams and coaches were my support during those years and I’ve never forgotten that.  Because of my family situation, youngest of four with no mother, I went to boarding school for high school.

Tell us something about your personal life? 

One of my proudest achievements is helping lacrosse develop here in Westford.  I played and loved lacrosse through high school and college and in early 2000, my nephew was in fourth grade and a couple of his friends were playing lacrosse in Chelmsford.  Two parents: Fred Callahan and Scott Goodrich had some history with lacrosse and, through my sister-in-law Kim Healy, invited me to join them in creating Westford Youth Lacrosse.

As I was helping establish that organization, the high school reached out to see if I could help their team also.  I ended up coaching in the youth program and at Westford Academy for 11 years and developing both a boys and girls lacrosse program for the town.  There are many hours in a day for a young person that are not spent at school and to help provide one of the options for them to spend their time and develop teamwork and get exercise, I’ve enjoyed that.