Why I am Running for State Senate
This district is my home, and running for state Senate is a privilege.
I grew up in the district, in the small town of Buckland. My father, a Vietnam veteran, operated three small businesses before going back to school at 51. He became a teacher in my high school and retired two years ago. My mother was a nursery school teacher and then a part-time librarian in the high school.
I didn't know it then, but at times my parents quietly struggled to make ends meet. Their daily sacrifices and hopes for my sister and me were our stability. To me, my parents represent the values and commitments we hold dear here in Western Massachusetts. We sacrifice so the next generation can reach for their dreams. We stand up to protect opportunity so our hard work pays off.
Thanks to my parents' sacrifice and belief in me, an unlikely path led me from Buckland to Washington D.C. and then to the Middle East as a negotiator for the United Nations. But this district was always home, and I returned because I want to make a difference where I grew up. With the experience I gained in politics, conflict resolution and coalition building, I am eager to represent the people and region that means so much to me; the region to which I am committed.
I am running to ensure every child in this district has the same sense of possibility that I was lucky enough to feel. I am running to ensure every working family can rest in the knowledge they can find a quality job and create a future that is secure.
Our region's potential is extraordinary: we have world-class cultural institutions, vibrant cities, welcoming small towns, fertile farms and unequaled access to nature. Our proud manufacturing legacy continues to bring cutting-edge technology to the world.
But right now, too many working families struggle to make a living wage, or to meet basic expenses. The median household income in Berkshire County is nearly $20,000 below state levels. The poverty rate is above the state average.
Tolerating barriers created by poverty, low wages, or excessive college costs is not in line with our commitment to opportunity or the prosperity of our region. We need to do something about it.
To fulfill our district's potential it is urgent we come together to create quality jobs in our region, strengthen our education by addressing flawed state funding formulas, accelerate efforts to lower energy costs while investing in renewable energy, and fight the scourge of heroin.
Expanding the economy means supporting small- to medium-sized business so they can grow. It means improving critical infrastructure. It is unacceptable that finalizing last-mile broadband has taken so long, or that conversations about developing an effective transportation system persist.
PATHWAY TO WORK
Real growth also requires training the workforce businesses need to expand here in Western Mass. That is one reason I am leading a community effort in northern Berkshire County called "Employ North Berkshire". It creates a pathway to work that removes obstacles to sustained employment.
To attract or keep businesses and employees we need strong schools. But funding mechanisms do not recognize challenges specific to rural districts or those with declining populations. As a result, our schools struggle to cover fixed costs and the curriculum suffers as a result. I know the difficulties of our schools firsthand, not only because I was a student in the district, but because it was often the conversation around our family dinner table.
To support our families I am also focused on strengthening the system of rural health and creating a strategy to confront the heroin epidemic. I started and continue involvement in a program in Pittsfield that ensures high-risk youth experience hope through educational support, the discipline of a regular job, and help from a solid mentor. Together we can do more.
In my work in our communities I have been blessed by strong support and good relationships. I will similarly work with business and clean-energy leaders to accelerate the growth of the commonwealth's clean-energy sector. Through collaboration and creativity — two qualities I believe are essential for good leadership — we can secure lower energy costs while meeting our commitment to develop renewable energy sources.
I spent nearly 10 years working for the United Nations, most of it based in the Middle East. I have negotiated with local, regional and world leaders in Iraq, Jerusalem, and Syria. But my intention was always to come home.
My experience gave me the courage to fight for our common interests and the skills to bring people together to get things done, in the district and in Boston. It showed me we are stronger when we work together. That will always be my starting point, and that is how I intend to work as state senator.
I will ensure Massachusetts remains a leader on progressive issues while focusing on local challenges. I will remain shoulder to shoulder with residents in neighborhoods throughout the district working for economic and social justice.
In Western Massachusetts we know what it means to stand side by side to tackle common challenges, protect fairness and opportunity for everyone, and protect our environment. Those are our ideals, and that is why I am running.