Concord Representative Cory Atkins retiring at the end of 2018 – News – Wicked Local


Dressed in a pink blazer, and munching on a doughnut with a cup of coffee at the West Concord Dunkin Donuts, Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord) had her usual pep.

She was full of stories — some personal, others political — and her energy level was high.

It was a hard decision,” Atkins said.

The decision Atkins made is to retire from elected politics at the end of this year, and she said it’s time to turn the mantle over to someone younger, with more energy.

Atkins serves the 14th Middlesex District, which includes Concord, Carlisle, Precincts 1 and 9 of Chelmsford and Precincts 1, 2 and 6 of Acton.

She turns 71 in February, and has held office for nearly two decades starting when she won a special election in 1999 to replace Pam Resor, who moved over to the state senate.

Butting heads

After 18 years of butting heads with lawmakers at the State House and pushing for issues she cares about, Atkins said she knew going in to her 2016 re-election campaign that it would probably be her last go-round.

She told her staff in September of her intention to retire at the end of 2018, when her two-year term expires, and she acknowledged a combination of health, and personal issues, have gradually eroded her energy.

She suffers from Crohn’s disease, had successful surgery for lung cancer and had back surgery in February, which she called “a punch in the gut.”

A “devastating” divorce from her husband, former Congressman Chet Atkins, was a four-year process that took a toll.

“It took a lot out of my family,” Atkins said.

Those factors zapped Atkins’ energy, but not all of it.

Mold next generation

She plans to stay involved in politics, primarily by helping to mold the next generation of political leaders.

Atkins acknowledged she doesn’t know how she’ll go about doing it, but she feels the next generation “is not prepared to run the country.”

She wants to teach them how to differentiate between real and fake news, how to fact check, and not be afraid to “get into mini conflicts” in order to learn how take a stand, even when it’s unpopular.

Accomplishments

As for her accomplishments, Atkins said one occurred early in her political career. Assabet Avenue in Concord emptied on to Route 2, and small children had to navigate a bus stop on the busy state road.

“I was horrified,” Akins said, adding she fought to get state money so the avenue would empty onto Barretts Mill Road, so children would have to safe place to board the bus.

Another is her support for same-sex marriage, which became legal in Massachusetts in 2004.

Failures

Atkins acknowledged political failures. She said her biggest was “not understanding the group dynamics of the House.” In short, she said the power sources have shrunk, and it’s time “someone else has to fight that battle.”

She also admitted regret not having enough energy to do “more appearance stuff” in her district.

Atkins said the most pressing issue in her district in her final year in office, and for her successor, is the fallout from the tax overhaul package signed last month by President Donald Trump.

“It’s like a bullet, it will take away from household income,” Atkins said.

Bucket list

Atkins has a bucket list in retirement, and it’s largely focused on traveling.

She said she wants to visit Alaska, and “see the glaciers before they’re gone (from global warming)”. There’s also a desire to a take a desert ride on a camel to Morocco.

She’s also promised each of her five grandchildren to take them anywhere in the world when each turns 10.

This summer she’s taking grandchild Caroline to Paris and London for a “great adventure”.

Blue-collar roots

Atkins said growing up in Marshfield wasn’t easy. She said her roots are blue collar, and as a kid there were difficulties. Her mom was divorced, and Atkins was the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

She married Atkins, and had two children. Most of her adult life has been connected to politics, from her work as a political columnist for the Middlesex News, to leading a women’s group to the 1985 Arms Summit in Geneva, where she had a 45-minute meeting with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

It’s been a roller coaster ride of a life that Atkins can’t believe happened to her.

“I’ve lived a life that was supposed to be someone else’s,” she said.

Follow Henry Schwan on Twitter @henrycojo.

 

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