‘Together we can shine’: Sullivan says city ‘struggling’ under current leadership

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Victoria Sullivan greets her father, Jim Wojdylak of Goffstown, and son, Seamus, 12, who dressed up for his mother’s announced mayoral bid. Peeking between the two is Sullivan’s mother, Mary Wojdylak, also of Goffstown. Photo/Pat Grossmith

MANCHESTER, NH — Former two-term Republican state representative Victoria Sullivan, standing near Millie, the Mill Girl statue on the steps off Bedford Street, announced Monday afternoon that she is running for mayor of the state’s largest city.

A former assistant majority leader of the New Hampshire State House of Representatives, Sullivan said she chose the Millyard site for her campaign announcement because the statue recognizes “the role of women as the backbone of the city.”

Several dozen family members, friends and supporters, many waving “Victoria Sullivan Mayor of Manchester” signs and holding umbrellas to protect them from a cold rain, turned out for the announcement.

“We all know of several Queen City families who have made the choice to leave Manchester,” she said. “We hear of countless, would-be visitors who chose to go elsewhere because of the current state of the city we love. It is a sad reality that Manchester is struggling and our current mayor is doing nothing to help correct the course. We must change that.”

With a campaign slogan of “Together, We Can Shine,”  Sullivan said the city is at a crossroads but she believes Manchester “can shine again.  I believe that together, we can take back this city and transform it into the place we all dream it can be. But to do that, we need a mayor who is one of us. We need a mayor who acknowledges the problems facing our city rather than just ignoring them.”

Family, friends and supporters gathered at the at the Millie the Mill Girl statue for Victoria Sullivn’s mayoral announcement. Photo/Pat Grossmith

Sullivan, 50, said her husband, Buddy, who stood beside her as she made her case for unseating incumbent Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig, worked two jobs so that she could be a stay-at-home mom to their sons, Buddy, 14, and Seamus, 12.

Hers is a true blue-collar family like most families in Manchester, she said, and she noted the median household income in the city is roughly $55,000.

She said she understands the vast majority of people in Manchester can’t afford higher taxes.  That’s why residents can count on her to fight to protect the spending cap, Sullivan said.

Education is an area that is close to her heart because of her children.  She is a former president of the Highland-Goffs Falls Road School PTA and volunteers at charter schools.  Sullivan also home-schooled her sons for a time but they now attend public schools.

She believes Manchester schools should serve as magnet schools to attract new students and act as a draw for more families to move to the city.

‘If we come together, I am confident that we can achieve these goals and ensure our children receive the highest quality education that they deserve,” she said.

Sullivan, on her website victoriasullivanformayor.com, said that despite declining enrollment in the Manchester School District, the budget has increased by more than $7 million and will go higher in the next fiscal year.

“That is unsustainable for families in our city. The appropriate dollars are not making it into the classroom, as the cost of non-teaching staff consistently becomes our largest expense. Reforming our schools into a department instead of a district would help our city save on maintenance expenses and would assist in reducing duplicative staff. That would, in turn, allow for more dollars to make it into the classroom where they belong,” she said.

Another top issue she cited is the opioid epidemic that is affecting the entire state, but Manchester more acutely.  It is a painful one, she said, and her family, like many others across the city, also suffered the loss of a loved one to addiction.

“The effects on those left behind are devastating,” she said.   Sullivan said we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.

Will Infantine, at the podium, introduces Victoria Sullivan, in red, who on Monday announced her bid for mayor of Manchester. Photo/Pat Grossmith

“We have to create a unified approach to recovery, while simultaneously working to educate our children about the dangers of drug use. No one individual or organization has all of the answers. That is why city leaders need to work with all members of our community, in tandem with our elected leaders in Concord and in Washington, to ensure we have every resource necessary to defeat this crisis,” she said.

Homelessness is also of increased concern, Sullivan said.  “We must be compassionate to those needing help to ensure they are given the tools they need to have a fresh start, but to do so we have to understand the impact the drug epidemic is having on this population.”

What cannot be ignored, she said, is the effect the growing homeless population has on the quality of life of residents and business owners, particularly downtown.

The situation was made worse, she said, by actions taken by the mayor when she closed down homeless camps by the highways and the river, forcing the homeless to seek shelter on Elm Street.

“We must make it a chief priority of the next administration to find real solutions to homelessness and the effects of it. I am prepared to work to address this problem on my first day in office,” she said.