Pro-Vocational Education Republican Running For State Senate On South Shore

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Gary Innes sees a problem, and he wants to help fix it.

The 65-year-old Hanover resident thinks more students should have the opportunity to attend vocational schools instead of traditional high schools. 

So Innes is running for the Massachusetts Senate as a Republican in the Norfolk and Plymouth District against incumbent state Senator John Keenan (D-Quincy) to promote vocational education, among other policy priorities.

“In my opinion, the state of Massachusetts — especially the state Senate — is very lopsided,” Innes said. “We have 37 Democrats and only three Republicans — so we need people to run for state Senate. This is the office I will run for until I am elected.”

When speaking about trade schools, Innes noted that he supports expanding vocational opportunities in the district. For example, Innes supports expanding South Shore Tech in Hanover, Blue Hills Regional Vo-Tech in Canton (Braintree is a part of the school district), and building a vocational high school in Quincy. 

Innes notes that vocational schools in Massachusetts have waiting lists. Public vocational schools in Massachusetts have an average acceptance rate of 67 percent; about 18,560 students apply for seats and just 12,545 receive offers of admission, according to WBUR

“We have thousands of kids that we say, ‘Well, I’m sorry you can’t be a plumber or an electrician or a web designer,'” Innes said. “You have to go to high school and then a four-year school and then by that time, they’ve got debt, they’ve lost focus, and they don’t have what they need to pay their bills. It’s an endless cycle of frustration. We need people in the trades.”

Part of Innes’s support for vocational education comes from his work experience. He is a salesman for Hinds & Coon in Boston, an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) distributor.

That said, Innes has plenty of interaction with tradesmen.

“When I sell them a v-belt or an air filter at the company I work for in South Boston, the people on the other side of the counter are making $125,000 to $175,000 per year and I’m thinking, ‘Why didn’t my parents tell me about vocational training?’ ” Innes said. “They should’ve said to become a plumber, electrician, or HVAC technician, and I would’ve made more money. I’m not jealous of young kids in their 20s making $100,000 per year. I just want people to learn from my mistakes.”

He said that teaching people skills that help them make money will make them self-sufficient and not feel like they need government handouts.

“Once you teach them a skill, they hold onto that skill and carry it for life,” he said. “Once we teach kids how to stand on their own two feet, how to have a trade, and how to get a license in one of those areas, everyone will be knocking your door down.”

“Once we teach them how to fish, they’re gonna want to fish all day long,” he added. “But if we give them a fish, they’re going to want something bigger and better and ‘Can you come to my house and bring me the fish? Do I really have to go to your house to get the fish?’ The more we do that, the better will be as a nation and as a community.”

Additionally, Innes said that if more people got into trades, it could help combat inflation by giving consumers more choices. 

“It’s supply and demand,” he said. “Say there’s only one dentist in town and he charges this amount of money. Well, the more dentists you have in town … one guy might be $100 for a filling and the other guy might be $150. At least then you have a chance to go to the one for $100 and see how he is and if you like him, you use him. Getting additional people into that marketplace will increase the supply which means consumers will have a choice and they don’t have to beg a plumber to come down. And the people in the fields are welcome to it; they want helpers.”

Plus, Innes said he would be open to policies that shorten the number of hours of trade school or training one needs to obtain certain licenses, if it wouldn’t undermine safety and competence. 

“I think licenses should be streamlined not to weaken the credentials or to get someone in a situation to cause a fire or start a flood. We still need people to be able to do the job, but the timeframe and everything?” he said. “Maybe we can take a look at that. If you can do, say electrical work, maybe it doesn’t take everyone the full-time period, but you need to be able to do the test and pass it. You need to be capable. I don’t want non-capable people coming in and creating a fire, but sometimes they seem to drag it out — and it is a problem — and that’s why some kids don’t get into the trades.”

“If they’re qualified, fine,” he added. “If not, they keep doing what they need to do to pass that test.”

Innes also said he is a strong supporter of law enforcement.  He said the death of Michael Chesna inspired him to run for public office. Chesna was a Weymouth police officer and Hanover resident, who was killed in the line of duty in 2018.

“I’m super pro-police,” Innes said. “Police are vital. You can’t not have police. Safety is what we worry about. When you come to the great city of Quincy, you want to be safe. Police being here keep us safe. The left doesn’t get it; they want to beat up on police. But there’s a small percentage of anybody that doesn’t do a good job. And the good cops I talk to want those bad cops out just as much as everyone else does. The common goals are there, but to beat up on the police and now people don’t want to be police, we’ve created a monster.”

On abortion, Innes is pro-life and pro-adoption. 

“Life occurs at conception,” Innes said. “They do the argument of conception or up to nine months or eight months or eight and half months. But a baby in the womb is a baby in the womb. Whatever size you are, it’s still a baby in the womb. Some people say, ‘Well, in the first 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days.’ But they need to realize that it’s a baby in the womb. In America, people are looking to adopt children all of the time. It’s not going to be a problem bringing a child to birth and they can have loving parents in the town or state that you live in. I am strongly pro-life.”

He added that he likes the idea of making adoption more affordable with a larger tax credit, for example. 

“Absolutely,” he said. “That encourages a young female in her teens or early 20s where a majority of the abortions are. We need to guide them and help them and get them to a better place. And if they have a baby after seven or eight months they may see they really want to keep this child and really grow an attachment. But if they want to have a baby and give them up for adoption, that’s perfectly fine. We’re always looking for human beings to join us.”

Innes also said he supports small businesses. He and his wife owned a flower shop in Duxbury for 27 years.

“Small business owners in general suffer,” he said. “You work hard, it’s a lot of hours, and the owner is always the last one to take a paycheck. Those people take the risk, so I’m pro-business.”

He also voiced support for parental rights in education, along with his opposition to what he views as inappropriate material in schools. 

“On the South Shore, we have a real problem with the books in schools, what kids are being taught and indoctrinated by the left,” he said. “How about we don’t indoctrinate them and let them come to their own conclusions, whether they want to be a conservative or a liberal? And get all of those sexual books out of the schools.”

The Norfolk and Plymouth District includes: Abington, Braintree(Precincts 3B, 4B, 6A, and 6B1), Hanover, Holbrook, Quincy, and Rockland.

Keenan could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday.


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