I proudly and enthusiastically endorse Mary Cassesso for Mayor of Somerville.
I’ve known Mary for more than 50 years. We come from the same place — East Somerville, a working class community where many families started their lives in this country and began their search for the American dream. In particular, 1960s East Somerville was predominantly populated by Italian and Irish immigrants and their first generation children. Among them were Mary’s mother, Barbara, my wife Gloria, and me. Together, we helped to start the movement that changed
Somerville from a broken safe haven of political corruption into a three time All-American City award winner and one of the best run, most desirable communities in Massachusetts.
Somerville, its progressives, and I owe much to Barbara Cassesso. She somehow managed to raise four (4) kids on her own, and still found a way through community organizing, civic activism, and political action, to play an important part in making Somerville not only a better place, but a place welcoming to progressive politics. She and her entire family were a consistent feature of every battle we fought, and every one of my campaigns. She was a fixture at Somerville City Hall for decades. And she gave us Mary, whose progressive values were forged against the backdrop of growing up in 1960s East Somerville with a mother who fought tirelessly for economic and social justice, and at a time when being progressive in Somerville wasn’t easy. It is far easier now, because of the courage of people like Barbara and Mary Cassesso. I know because I was there. I saw Mary follow her mother’s lead, and dive into political activism from an early age. At a rally for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and at protests to stop the construction of I-93, Mary was on Barbara’s shoulders. Right in front of my eyes, she grew up to become a charismatic public servant and leader whose intelligence is matched only by her skill, tenacity, and her passion for helping those in need.
Mary has devoted her entire life to public service, starting as a 14 year-old working in the Somerville Library. After putting herself through college and earning a master’s degree along the way, she embarked on a career path that is nothing short of astonishing. She has worked for a Somerville mayor (Gene Brune), and two Massachusetts governors (Mike Dukakis & Deval Patrick), at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, and Cambridge Health Alliance.
As impressive as her resume looks on paper, the hallmark of her career is the depth and breadth of her administrative and public policy experience, Mary has been running government agencies and non-profit organizations her entire adult life, effectively bringing together and managing people in organizations large and small, managing budgets large and small, and she has done it in health care, affordable housing, employment, and education — all of the most important, most basic human services. She is ready to run the City of Somerville from Day One.
Most recently in her capacity as Chief Community Officer for Cambridge Health Alliance during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mary rolled up her sleeves, working seven days a week to support community organizations, public officials, the business community, and the many doctors, nurses, and other heroic individuals on the front lines of the pandemic, by arranging health care, Covid education, food, and other critical services for countless people in CHA’s service area, including Somerville.
Why does she work so relentlessly and tirelessly? Mary Cassesso cares about people. Period.
Many observers, including current Mayor Joe Curtatone, have said Gene Brune was Somerville’s best Mayor, perhaps because he ran Somerville during the 1980s — a critical time in the life of the City. When Mayor Brune needed somebody to clean up Somerville’s books, he chose the right person for the job. He chose Mary Cassesso. As City Auditor, Mary put the books in order and established a new standard for good government in Somerville.
Somerville now faces another critical moment, and Mary Cassesso is once again, the right person for the job.
Mary has a great love for the City of Somerville. She has stayed in Somerville for her entire life. Her decades-long commitment to making Somerville a better place has helped it become one of the most successful municipalities in the country. But, because she grew up in 1960s East Somerville, she is also grateful for her own success, and the opportunities she has had. That’s why she has that rare sense of civic duty and desire to give back. That’s also why she knows that as Somerville continues to prosper, ALL of its residents must share in its success. Being raised in Somerville also means she has a stronger connection to its past. That’s why she knows instinctively that as Somerville continues to change, it must not forget its past — that it can never go back to graft and corruption, that it cannot abandon its longest standing and oldest residents, and that it must not lose the culture and diversity that are its heart and soul.
For all of those reasons and more, Mary Cassesso has the unique perspective, insight, and experience that make her the best person to guide Somerville through its next chapter, and shape its future. I wholeheartedly urge anyone who loves Somerville and cares about its bright future to vote for Mary Cassesso for Mayor of Somerville.
Former State Sentator 1985-1990