I have crossed paths with Boston mayoral candidate Charlotte Golar Richie at various times over the last few decades, but without getting a real sense of her as an individual. Certainly, I knew her from her bio: Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya; two master’s degrees; two-term member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where she chaired the Housing and Urban Development Committee; Chief of Housing and Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development as part of Tom Menino’s cabinet; senior advisor to Governor Patrick on federal, state and local relations; and finally, before announcing her candidacy for Mayor of Boston, as senior vice president of the national organization called YouthBuild USA. She has also been on the advisory board of The Boston Foundation’s Haiti Fund. An impressive resume.
Last night, I spent some time with her at a small gathering and liked what I saw. Behind (or perhaps in front of) that list of her accomplishments is a warm individual with clearly articulated values and thoughtful responses to people’s concerns. From her international experience, she says, she learned “tolerance, patience, empathy, unity, and coming together around common cause.” Her track record working at various levels of government, federal, state and local, developed in her a commitment to be transparent and inclusive. This would be particularly useful in dealing with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which, she says, while valuable in its current role, needs to do better with proper notification and input, proceeding with development in a respectful and productive way.
When she spoke generally about having learned how to “manage in a union environment,” I asked her specifically how that would apply to the Boston schools, especially the need for a longer school day. She agreed about how crucial that is and said that obviously the union and city would have to work out terms. But she also said that, if teachers are asked to work more, it’s reasonable for them to expect to earn more. How much more would have to be negotiated. But she believes that teachers understand how important it is to increase the time students spend in school.
Along with her legislative experience, Richie has a stronger executive background, managing large organizations, than many, if not most of the crowded field for mayor. She also has, it must be noted, more experience and greater depth and range than Tom Menino had when he became mayor. She learned from watching the now venerable mayor how clearly grounded he was, how focused on his priorities, especially the neighborhoods. Boston is a different city than it was two decades ago. Racial, ethnic and gender politics, while still important, are no longer determinative. Charlotte Golar Richie is much more than just an African-American woman running for office. Her growing support is city-wide, and she comes across as having strong mayoral potential, and is worth serious consideration in the fall mayoral selection.
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