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Meet Sharon Durkan, District 8’s newest city councilor

District 8’s City councilor for Sharon Durkan
District 8’s City councilor for Sharon Durkan. After working as finance director for Sen. Ed Markey, she was sworn into her new city councilor position on Aug. 7. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHARON DURKAN.

From growing up in a small and overwhelmingly conservative town in northern Georgia to being the finance director for Sen. Ed Markey, recently-elected District 8 City Councilor Sharon Durkan has always had an interest in politics.

“I’ve always been involved in political organizing,” Durkan said. “I always knew that I cared about the political process and cared about good governance.”

Growing up a Democrat, Durkan said she felt different from many people in her largely-conservative community but she continued to advocate for issues that were important to her.

She started her school’s first recycling program and lobbied the school district to give all students access to a laptop so they could do homework after school.

“I think those two experiences in high school really made me realize that when you advocate for something it could happen,” Durkan said. “Those were sort of the first political things I ever did in my life.”

Durkan’s professional involvement in politics began in 2008, when she did door-to-door campaigning for Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign.

She continued her political advocacy while studying for her undergraduate degree at Smith College where she organized political support for Democratic candidates across Massachusetts as president of the Smith College Democrats.

In 2015, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in government, Durkan moved to Boston to work for then City Councilor Michelle Wu.

She has since worked as the director of development for the Boston Inaugural Fund, finance director for Markey and consultant for City Councilors Kenzie Bok, Ruthzee Louijeune and Josh Zakim.

In her endorsement, Wu described Durkan as a “valued advisor, team member, and friend who always leads with her heart and knows how to get things done.”

“I always liked playing a supporting role in helping candidates from Councilor Wu to Senator Markey,” Durkan said. “I always thought that was a really effective way to impact change in politics.”

In April, when city councilor Kenzie Bok announced she would resign to accept a position as the next administrator of the Boston Housing Authority, Durkan said she initially did not intend to run for the position but was “spurred” by her former work of teaching women to run for elected office.

“It was a sleepless night and I had this moment of thinking I just thought, ‘if I don’t do this, who will?’” Durkan said.

Durkan was sworn into office at the Boston Public Garden on Aug. 7 and will serve the remainder of former Councilor Kenzie Bok’s two year term. 

Alicia Goganian, campaign manager at Environmental League of Massachusetts, said she endorsed Durkan because of Durkan’s personality and history in Boston.

“I think [her] dedication and care for her district really stood out,” Goganian said. “As a resident, a fairly longtime resident, you could tell that she really cared about the future and health of her district.”

As a city councilor, Durkan said she wants to work towards fighting housing costs for students and residents within the city.

“We’re really in a housing affordability crisis,” she said. “We will need to strategize about what we can do as a city council and as a city [so] that people aren’t pushed out of our city.” 

Durkan said the city needs to pursue “creative solutions”  like the use of public land to create affordable housing opportunities.

She referenced the city’s future plans to build housing on top of the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library as an example of these solutions. 

Josh Zakim, a former councilor for District 8, stated his confidence in Durkan’s ability to tackle affordable housing in his endorsement on Durkan’s website. He highlighted Durkan’s time living as a renter within the city as giving her a “distinct perspective on affordable housing.”

Durkan said she hopes to improve the mental condition of the city by protecting and expanding public parks within the city to give residents more access to green space. 

“We know that access to green spaces are very tied in with mental health and wellness, and so for me, being an advocate for parks is incredibly important,” Durkan said. “Parks are something that need to be protected by every single generation of people who represent them.”

Goganian said Durkan’s “commitment to expanding and protecting green spaces” was a significant reason why she chose to endorse Durkan for office. 

Green spaces have environmental benefits for the city like the reduction of heat island effects, Goganian said.

As a representative of a district with several colleges and universities, Durkan said she plans to better engage with students in the city. On Aug. 30, Durkan gave a talk to Boston University students during the opening ceremony of the First Year Student Outreach Project program at the George Sherman Union

“It was really exciting to be at BU at FYSOP and sort of see how passionate BU students are and what they can bring to civic engagement and participation,” she said.

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