Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Norman Abbott

As a field coordinator for State Rep. Tom Conroy’s campaign for U.S. Senate, Norman Abbott took part in the candidate’s walk across Massachusetts last summer.

Pounding the pavement. The walk was a two-month, 657-mile trek through more than 130 towns. As the point person on the ground, I personally walked over 350 miles and was on the road for about 550. We started in Wayland at Representative Conroy’s front door, went up to North Adams, down through Pittsfield, Springfield, and up the Cape, then got on a boat, resumed walking in Gloucester and continued down into Boston, where the walk ended on the Common on September 3. I commuted back and forth almost daily, except for the week on the Cape. We walked an average of over 13 miles a day.

Road testing. On the walk I learned that there are two distinct “states” of Massachusetts–one inside Route 128/95 and one outside. For example, those in the “first” Massachusetts take broadband Internet for granted, while in the hill towns of western Massachusetts there are areas without any broadband and cell reception. Similarly, the infrastructure throughout the state is suffering. Roads and bridges need to be repaired, MBTA lines need to be replaced and expanded, among a myriad of other issues.

Meet and greet. The walk provided me with a great chance to meet many key Massachusetts policymakers–Governor Deval Patrick, Congressman William Keating, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, as well as countless state reps and mayors. I also got to see how the decision-making process happens. We ate at local restaurants, as the walk was meant to engage people where they live, work, eat, and frequent. Along the walk we met with many local groups and concerned voters who expressed their issues with the economy and, sadly, we saw a lot of unemployment.

Well prepared. At Wheaton, Professor Marcus Allen and the rest of the Political Science Department really helped to prepare me for the job that I am now doing. Courses like “Contemporary Urban Politics” with Professor Allen gave me a great understanding of how local government works in conjunction with statewide and national government to develop new infrastructure and solve problems.