I live on Summer Street, half a mile from the hospital where I was born, in a cozy apartment that I rent with my partner, Harry, and our two rescue cats. I was raised in New Hampshire, but my father made sure that I grew up learning the history of the city I was born in. Today, I’m building my life in Salem and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
I began my career balancing full time schedules both at school and my retail job. After, I worked as a community organizer registering voters and training volunteers in neighborhood leadership skills during the 2016 election. The urgent need for stable hours and health insurance brought me to where I am today, working in healthcare administration at organizations dedicated to caring for our most vulnerable communities.
Harry and I spent months trying to find an apartment in Salem that fit in our limited budget. When we finally signed a lease, I was working second shift and commuting over two hours into Boston each way, taking the bus because a monthly train pass was too expensive.
I am lucky to now be working a 9 to 5 with a much easier commute, and I recognize how privileged I am to have evenings and weekends free to spend getting involved locally when so many people in Salem work multiple jobs, erratic hours, and deal with long commutes just to survive. I want to use my privilege to serve my community and fight for the needs of our working-class neighbors with urgency and empathy.
Why are you running for Councilor and what particular skills can you bring to the position?
I'm running for City Council because I believe Ward 3 deserves a bold, creative leader who can break down barriers to accessing city services and work with urgency on the issues that affect us most.
At work, I'm involved with everything from answering the phones to project management, but most importantly I'm responsible for helping our patients understand their health insurance benefits. I'm able to take complicated information from insurance companies and translate it into easily understood language that helps patients get the care they need faster. My skills in community health literacy will help me create better city literacy within Salem's neighborhoods.
I also see an urgent need for more renters in our local government. Half of Salem rents, but our current Councillors are almost all homeowners. We pay property taxes with each month's rent check - typically without ever seeing the bill. We deserve equal representation in the Council Chambers, especially when affordable housing is one of the biggest issues on the table. Decisions that affect us cannot be made without us.
Most importantly, I put myself in other people's shoes when making decisions that affect more than just myself. I've spent years in low-wage jobs choosing between paying my student loan bill and my utility bills. I know firsthand how profoundly health issues can affect everyday life. I work with patients from all walks of life, including those affected by substance abuse disorders and other mental health issues. My empathy and compassion are what inform my leadership and allow me to make smart, considerate choices on behalf of others.
What are some of your proposed solutions towards resolving the housing crisis in Salem?
Solving Salem's housing crisis will take a lot of small steps, teamwork, and creativity. I support inclusionary zoning, expanding the ability for homeowners to build and rent out Accessory Dwelling Units (in-law apartments), and our proposed Municipal and Religious Reuse Special Permit zoning ordinance.
One area where I see a great opportunity is in an incentive program for gateway cities like Salem and Lynn offered by the state government. Salem is able to participate in the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) for new construction and substantial renovation, and I believe we should take full advantage of it by creating a Housing Development Zone. These tax incentives offered by HDIP will create a larger amount of affordable units in new housing developments, and we'll actually see a profit from the higher property taxes on land that's currently empty.
How do you see Salem impacted by the climate crisis and what new initiatives would you take to lead Salem's resiliency efforts?
Salem is absolutely impacted by the climate crisis, from our coastal floods to the gas leaks all over town. I will fight for effective, sustainable solutions with the urgency this issue deserves.
One of my top goals will be holding developers and manufacturers in Salem to a much higher standard of environmentally sustainable construction practices. This is a major way for Salem to improve the lives of Ward 3 residents in particular. Faster construction speeds and as little blasting as possible are better for our environment and can make a real difference in a community's quality of life during nearby development projects.
I will also prioritize researching city-operated public transportation options that focus on helping weekday commuters so fewer cars are on the road during peak traffic hours, as well as improving our streets and sidewalks so more of us feel safer walking and biking across Salem.
Please outline some ideas you have that can enhance civic engagement at the city level.
Creating more opportunities for community outreach and civic education. Councilors have a really unique opportunity to get creative and educate their neighbors at their doorstep. We need to take full advantage of it and be true community leaders.
Offering public workshops or similar opportunities for building neighborhood leadership skills. When we empower more people to be leaders in their own neighborhoods, more of us will be able to be present and engaged at the city level.
Improving access to city meetings. This includes offering free childcare during city meetings so more parents can attend, as well as exploring options for live streaming meetings using platforms like Facebook Live so more people can watch them in real-time wherever they are.
Improving overall accessibility within our city - for example, making changes to the vocabulary and sentence structures we use in our official written communication. Giant paragraphs full of complicated municipal government vocab terms end up being barriers for people with visual impairments, learning disabilities like dyslexia, and people who are still learning English, among others. It’s our responsibility to make sure important information is easy to access for as many residents as possible.