Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll

Just two weeks after becoming the state’s newest lieutenant governor, Kim Driscoll will share her insights on leadership and perseverance at the Women Elected Municipal Officials’ Leadership Luncheon on Jan. 20 during the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show in Boston.

Driscoll, who has been mayor of Salem since 2006, will discuss her experiences as a woman in politics and local government, and her journey from municipal service to the state’s second-highest office. After their inauguration on Jan. 5, Driscoll and Gov.-elect Maura Healey will form the state’s first all-women administration, and Massachusetts will be one of the two first states in the country, along with Arkansas, to have women occupying the two top executive roles.

Before she was elected as Salem’s 50th mayor in 2005, Driscoll had to overcome a significant challenge: No woman had held that job before. In an August episode of the podcast “Authentic Leadership for Everyday People,” Driscoll recalled the skepticism she heard during that first mayoral campaign.

“Salem had never had a woman mayor, and it never had a mayor who did not grow up in this community,” said Driscoll, who was born in Hawaii. “So it was somewhat big to overcome that, and it was talked about openly at the time, which is kind of crazy to me now … ‘Kim’s really smart, she’s really good, but we’re not ready for a woman.’ Those were often comments made. And I think voters said, ‘No, no, we want somebody good,’ or, ‘We want somebody who’s got skills.’ And thankfully, it worked out in my favor.”

Driscoll — who had experience as chief legal counsel and then deputy city manager in Chelsea, as community development director in Beverly, as a councillor in Salem, and as an intern in Salem’s Planning Department — won that election, and then won four more, while becoming recognized as a regional leader and a passionate advocate for local government.

Though she had strong family ties to the north of Boston, Driscoll gained an early exposure to the world outside Massachusetts, with her mother hailing from Trinidad, and her father serving in the Navy. As part of a military family, she moved frequently when she was young before going to college in Salem. She majored in political science and played basketball at Salem State University, and later went on to earn a law degree at the Massachusetts School of Law.

During her nearly 17 years as mayor, Driscoll has been credited with helping to stabilize and improve Salem’s finances, overseeing infrastructure upgrades, investing in public school improvements, championing climate initiatives, prioritizing downtown and waterfront revitalization, and promoting equality, among other accomplishments.

Driscoll has been actively involved in the MMA and served as president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association in 2012. She has also chaired the North Shore Coalition of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and she has served on the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Local Government Advisory Committee, the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council, and the Massachusetts Economic Development Planning Council, among other activities.

Sharing her leadership advice on the “Authentic Leadership for Everyday People” podcast, Driscoll listed several principles, including “surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you,” creating a culture of continuous learning, and not being afraid to “fail up” and try new initiatives. Ultimately, she said, good leadership means not taking shortcuts.

“I always say there’s no substitute for hard work,” Driscoll said. “I know that sounds very cliche, but you’ve got to put in the time. There’s just no way to overcome putting that time into the work that you have, whether it’s the private sector or the public sector. People appreciate hard workers, for sure, but you can’t phone it in a job like this, or for any leadership position.”

Written by