Born and raised in West Roxbury, Mary Tamer knows the neighborhood inside and out. She has announced her campaign for District 6 City Councilor, which is currently held by Matt O’Malley, who will not be seeking reelection.
As a child, Tamer lived in her grandparents’ home in West Roxbury, where her family ate together every Sunday, Her family immigrated from Lebanon and Syria, and Tamer said that she comes from a “family that’s very passionate about politics and community.” She still resides in West Roxbury with her husband and two sons.
Those Sunday dinners included multiple generations of her family and “hours and hours of conversation,” she said. “Just having that exposure,” she added, and “having such strong role models committed to small business, community, and the local political scene” have helped shaped who she has become as a person.
Tamer said that what she loves most about District 6 is “our green spaces. I think that we are so incredibly lucky where we live in this district” to have the “largest tree canopy in the entire city.”
She said that as a child, she learned to ride her bike in the Arnold Arboretum. “These spaces we have here in District 6 have been here with me since my childhood,” she said. She said other favorites include Jamaica Pond and Millennium Park.
Small businesses are also plentiful in the district, and some of her most frequented businesses are Anna’s Donuts (she’s an avid donut fan) and Recreo Coffee, both in West Roxbury. “I really do just love to walk around the neighborhood and shop locally,” she said.
“I really consider myself a child of this city,” she said, and not just of West Roxbury.
As a Boston Public Schools (BPS) student, she attended school in other neighborhoods, and “one of the reasons I wanted to raise my own children here is because of the wonderful and independent experiences I had growing up as as student in this City,” she said.
Tamer took her experience with education and ran with it, following her time as president of the League of Women Voters of Boston when her two boys were BPS students. Tamer also served for four years on the Boston School Committee from 2010-2014, after being appointed by Mayor Tom Menino.
“The League really wanted me to serve on the Superintendent Search Committee,” she said, and after eventually becoming a member of that committee, and then later the Boston School Committee, she heard from parents who shared their concerns with the school system and the difficulties they faced with their children’s education. She said that in particular, stories about students with disabilities moved her, and she “became a fierce advocate for that group.”
She said that she heard from parents about “not enough opportunities” or non-compliance with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and this became a big equity issue for me.”
Tamer also said that English Language Learners became important to her, as her mother grew up in Brighton as a daughter of Syrian immigrants and was turned away from kindergarten because she didn’t know enough English.
“I want all of our students to succeed without question,” Tamer said.
Development and affordable housing are issues in the district that are important to many residents, and Tamer said she agrees that creating more affordable housing is necessary.
“I think about the number of people that are so committed to living in the city,” she said. “We have a wonderfully diverse city that has so much to offer, but we need to ensure that people of every income level” can stay in their neighborhoods.
“For our seniors, I think it’s critical to do what we can to allow folks to grow old in the communities that they helped to build,” she added.
She said she has heard from the community that there is a “greater need for long range planning,” as it is “something that we have been lacking.”
She continued, “we know that we have fairly limited open spaces that are available for development,” but people “want a seat at the table…I do believe as a city that we are obligated to provide that to them.”
Small business relief is also a hot button issue as the pandemic continues nearly a year after it began.
Tamer said she’s been participating in some of the Main Streets meetings where ideas are being discussed about how to best assist small businesses. She said that there are “wonderful restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and floral shops” not only in District 6 but across the city that continue to face challenges.
She said there are “opportunities or different initiatives where we can highlight businesses of the month,” as well as think about community building events.
Tamer shared a story about her past participation in the “Gloucester Pride Stride,” which is a five mile walk that raises money for local main streets programming, and local businesses are given a chance to participate by donating food or other items. She said something similar could be done in District 6.
“There are lots of things we can do,” she said, and it’s important to “think creatively.”
She also suggested a sort of mentorship program where experienced business owners would be paired with a first time business owner to get advice and learned the ropes. “I believe modeling and mentorship is one of the most valuable things,” Tamer said.
Tamer said one of the “biggest issues facing District 6” is recovering from the pandemic.
“People are facing incredible struggles right now,” she said, with “BPS students returning now after a year outside of school. It’s difficult for them, and for their parents who are trying to work.” She also said that with so many people losing their jobs, there is an even larger number of people who are facing housing and food insecurity. She said as city councilor, she would make it a priority to ensure “that all of our residents make it through this terrible time,” and ensure that the “city is providing support.”
She said that she wants to make sure that Black and Brown communities, who have been “disproportionately affected by COVID-19” as far as infection rates, death rates, and job loss, are “getting the highest levels of support” when it comes to testing and vaccinations.
“We need to have mobile vaccination sites,” she said. “We are the health and tech capital of the United States. If we brought vaccinations to schools, senior centers, to places of business, I think we would see our rates of vaccinations increase. We need to make this a process without barriers. Let’s go to public housing, go to all of these places and make sure that people are being vaccinated.”
Tamer said that “campaigning in a pandemic is challenging,” but “not impossible.” She said that so far, she has made phone calls to residents in the district, as well as hosting virtual gatherings on Zoom to chat with potential constituents about what is important to them.
“Sometimes it’s a larger group, and sometimes it’s small groups,” she said, such as when a group of BPS parents wanted to chat with her.
“Now that vaccinations are underway, it’s certainly my hope that once spring and summer are upon us,” some outdoor events can be held. She said that she is “very focused on community and public health issues,” and would like to “do something healthy outside together.
So far, the “phone calls alone have been incredible for me. I’m learning something new every day. I’m appreciative every time someone takes my call,” she said.
Tamer said that she looks forward to working together to “come up with good, practical solutions that are going to work for most people,” and she believes it’s important to “be willing to listen, learn, and work with all of the wonderful groups that we have that are committed to work.”
More information about Mary Tamer and her platform can be found on her website, marytamer.com. She has yet to join Twitter, but she said she will be doing so soon.
“There is so much work that we need to do,” she said, “and I just feel that this is the time and I am the right person to help take the lead on some of these crucial issues.”