At least 100 people crowded onto a sidewalk in downtown Keene Wednesday evening for the official campaign kickoff of one of two announced mayoral candidates.
The marquee of The Colonial Theatre read “Greenwald for Mayor,” with the campaign slogan beneath: “Committed to Keene.”
Standing on the steps next to the theater, Mitchell H. Greenwald, 66, cracked a joke about the marquee’s other side, which read “Celebrating Ninety-Five Years” in honor of The Colonial’s anniversary.
“I hope I will be around to celebrate 95 years,” he quipped.
Greenwald, a city councilor for Ward 2, was the first to announce his candidacy, three days after Mayor Kendall W. Lane told The Sentinel in April he wouldn’t run for re-election.
At-large Councilor George S. Hansel announced his intent to run with a campaign launch at Machina Kitchen and ArtBar May 7.
A New York native, Greenwald graduated from Keene State College and never left the city. He founded Greenwald Realty Associates in 1986 and today runs the agency with his son, Joshua.
As councilor, Greenwald chairs the finance, organization and personnel committee, as well as the ad hoc economic development committee that’s scheduled to deliver a formal report to the council next month.
Joshua Greenwald emceed Wednesday’s event with introductions, thank-yous and a note about the inspiration his father has been “through his devotion to Keene, to schools, the economy, through hard work, fair play and integrity.”
Tenant-turned-family-friend Justin Goulet, owner of Goulet’s Strength and Fitness, told the crowd, “He gave me a chance, he helped me to establish myself, and he even counseled me as a small business owner. … I know what I want in a leader is someone that is willing to make decisions in the best interest of the people they represent, just as Mitch did in dealing with me as a tenant.”
Then state Sen. Jay V. Kahn took the mic and started an enthusiastic “Mitch Greenwald for mayor” call and response with the crowd. Kahn, a former Keene city councilor, said the two men have been friends for years, calling the candidate a “great ambassador” for the city.
Greenwald, he said, will continue in the manner of past mayors with deep roots in Keene, naming Aaron Lipsky, William Lynch, Patricia Russell, Michael Blastos and Lane, “Mayors who neither look ahead to their next higher office, nor look over their shoulders to what others in higher office would think of their actions.”
When Greenwald took his turn at the microphone, he said the steps he was standing on were perfect for his campaign kickoff, because the second floor of The Colonial is where he and his wife, Erika, opened a clothing store, Tops Shop, when he was in his early 20s.
Greenwald reminisced on his time serving with Lynch, who died Saturday at 84, a man he said took the time to teach city councilors.
“To you Bill, I thank you, and I truly will strive to do you right,” he said.
First elected as a councilor 22 years ago, Greenwald listed the city’s accomplishments over his two decades in office, including banning smoking in city restaurants, building the bike path and paving the way for a street fair, the first time the downtown area closed for a major event.
As mayor, he detailed issues he’d like to tackle, such as the opioid epidemic.
“I want to bring professionals together to work on a solution that will assist the people that are trapped in this,” he said, noting he would collaborate with first responders, treatment facilities and law enforcement.
Greenwald said he also wants to grow the local and regional economy, strengthen the relationship with area colleges, work on the city’s renewable energy goals and increase broadband access.
Every so often, a car honked while driving past on Main Street, and Greenwald paused to thank the anonymous driver.
Earlier in the event, a Keene fire truck sped by, lights and sirens blaring, and honked twice, to cheers and applause from the crowd. Greenwald noted that, while firefighters typically hit the horn on their way to an emergency, he believed the second honk was meaningful since the Keene firefighters’ union endorsed him this month.
The mayoral election for a two-year term will be in November. The filing period for city elections runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 10, or until Sept. 13 for those filing by petition.