PEABODY — Tom Gould reliably tops the ticket every two years in the at-large City Council election. But as Peabody’s Person of the Year begins a sixth term, it’s more than Gould’s work on the council that sets him apart as a tireless advocate for city he’s lived in since he was a year old.
In 2017 Gould was a leading force in the city’s Centennial Celebration and helped oversee the funding and construction of the new Black Box Theater at Northeast Arc’s ArcWorks Community Center on Foster Street.
“I was honored to be asked by the mayor to be co-chair of the Centennial Committee along with the woman who really runs the city, Mary Bellavance,” said Gould.
If Bellavance, the aide to Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. runs the city, she gets a big assist from Gould.
Between scooping ice cream at Treadwells, which he has owned with his wife Sharon for nearly two decades, serving on the council, and co-chairing the Centennial Committee, Gould also found time over the past two years to co-chair the Northeast Arc’s Black Box Theater Committee. With construction underway, curtains should rise on the new Foster Street theater later this year.
The project combines many of Gould’s passions: revitalizing the city he loves, his appreciation of the theater, and volunteer work for special needs adults and children. The theater will not only create a performance space in the burgeoning downtown, but further the Northeast Arc’s mission of helping people with disabilities become full participants in the community.
“Every great city has a theater in the downtown,” said Gould. “When I became a city councilor, I said one of my missions was to bring a theater to Peabody.”
A conversation with Northeast Arc development director Susan Ring-Brown helped bring the mission closer to reality.
“She asked me what I thought about black box theaters, and I told her it was an up-and-coming way to bring a theater and a space for performances to the downtown,” he said. A black box theater is typically a smaller performance space that is easily adaptable for a variety of uses, from concerts, to plays, to poetry readings.
While Gould remains humble and prefers to work behind the scenes, he regularly earns the accolades and appreciation of those he has helped. Within the past two years, the councilor was named to the St. Mary’s High School Hall of Fame and received a Visionary Leadership Award from Bridgewell. That award was for his work with the Challenger League, which supports athletes ages 5 to 18 who have physical, developmental disabilities, and other challenges.
“Through his advocacy and service, Tom has worked to create a community of inclusion and compassion for people with disabilities,” said Bob Stearns, Bridgewell’s president and CEO when Gould was honored.
Bettencourt said Gould’s caring nature and giving heart knows no bounds.
“He is extremely generous with his time and resources and is always there to lend a helping hand,” said the mayor. “His work as co-chair of the Centennial Committee helped make our year-long celebration of Peabody’s 100th birthday a tremendous success. Thanks in large part to Tom’s prolific fundraising, the Black Box Theater will soon open as downtown Peabody’s newest cultural attraction.”
For Gould, volunteering is part and parcel of his love for the city he’s lived in since the age of one.
“Peabody is a big city but it has a small town feel,” he said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and people who look out for each other.”