A Leader With Passion

Chris Malstrom was born and raised outside of Baltimore, MD to a working-class Irish Catholic family. Chris’ mom was a bank teller and college dropout while their father was an electrician/general contractor. During Chris’ childhood their mother worked hard to pursue a career in accounting, ultimately earning her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore. Chris’ father’s path as a union electrician/contractor unfortunately followed the same path of many union jobs with the decline of union/worker power within the nation. After their parents’ divorce, Chris was able to witness two stories of the “American Dream”: a story of success from their mother, as she ascended within her accounting firm to the position of Vice President before ultimately starting her own practice; while from their father’s perspective, they saw the struggle of a working-class man navigating spells of unemployment, attempted changes in career, inadequate healthcare options, joint custody, and the mental health struggles that came hand-in-hand with the difficulties of maintaining a stable life in these uncertain conditions.

Chris grew up balancing between these two worlds while also coming to understand their own significant difference from the rest of their family as they began to gain an understanding of their own sexual orientation and membership within the LGBTQ+ community. This greatly influenced Chris’ understanding of the need for more out and proud Queer representation in the public sphere as they know their own path to acceptance would have been measurably easier with the presence of more LGBTQ+ role models of different types, shapes and sizes. They also believe strongly in the need for more inclusion of LGBTQ+ history and sexual education within school curriculums to help give young LGBTQ+ students the opportunity to see, relate to, and learn from the documented history and accomplishments of people such as themselves.

Chris came to Massachusetts in 2007 to attend Boston University’s School of Hospitality and pursue a career in restaurants and hospitality. They graduated in 2011 and spent the last decade working every possible role within the restaurant industry in order to gain a personal understanding of the responsibilities, stresses and rewards of every aspect of a restaurant before attempting to open one their own. From their first day in the industry it was Chris’ priority to lead by example and never attempt to ask another to do something they weren’t willing to get down, dirty and do as well. This time within the restaurant industry gave them a strong understanding of the hardships and hope working low-income positions with a dream for more and Chris’ leadership style evolved into one seeking to inspire others to follow their example and embraced teambuilding as an opportunity for building community within their restaurant teams. It was also this experience that motivated Chris to pursue greater advocacy for fair wage and worker protection laws, as well as universal access to healthcare and housing, knowing all too well the various ways low wage workers can be abused by the system.

Chris moved to Salem’s Ward 1 in the Historic Derby Street Neighborhood with their partner in 2013 and has lived there ever since. Chris and his partner were drawn to Salem in 2013 because of its diversity, unique culture and beautiful coastline and knew instantly that they needed to make their home here. Over the past 8 years they have watched many of the things they love about Salem grow and expand, but they have not been ignorant of the problems that still face Salem today. The coastline that they love so much is under threat from sea level rise, with Ward 1 being one of the most at risk from severe climate change effects. Meanwhile, the cost of housing has increased to the point that they could no longer afford a place in Salem were they to try to move here now. And, there is noted frustration from residents that is shared by Chris regarding a lack of effective communication from the city about various projects and initiatives with direct impacts on residents of the Ward. Salem’s Ward 1 needs bold, progressive leadership willing to think big in order to tackle these and other issues facing the city head on, and the residents of the Ward deserve a Councillor who will listen and be responsive to their concerns and questions.