By Michael Coughlin Jr.
Henry Santana, Boston’s newest City Councilor At-Large elect, looks forward to hitting the ground running in 2024 when he officially takes his place on the City Council.
Santana, a 28-year-old who immigrated to Boston as a child from the Dominican Republic and grew up at the Alice Taylor Boston Housing Authority (BHA) apartments in Mission Hill, had a stellar performance in the city’s Municipal Election earlier this month to earn his at-large seat.
Out of the eight total candidates in the race, Santana finished within the top four, with 34,014 votes (15.53%), according to unofficial election results on the city’s website, and shared his thanks to supporters in an interview with the Gazette.
“I’m just thankful and honored that residents believed in me and trusted me to be in this position,” said Santana.
He specifically pointed out the strong support he received from neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain and East Boston and partly credited the result to campaign operations since April.
“We were just showing up in every neighborhood for months and months, and I think people were excited to see a young, black, Dominican immigrant who grew up in public housing, who’s a product of the city, who’s a product of Boston Public Schools,” said Santana.
Along with his lived experience, Santana also spoke about his professional experience, whether that be as a Field Director on the campaign to elect former City Councilor Kenzie Bok, Bok’s Director of Operations and Mission Hill and Fenway Liaison, and Director of the city’s Office of Civic Organizing.
“I had a very unique professional experience, combined with my lived experience, that I think resonated with so many people,” said Santana.
Not only did he think his previous professional roles resonated with folks, but Santana is also of the mindset that it will now help him on the City Council.
In his previous work with Bok, Santana explained how he got to see firsthand how the council can work together to help residents. In his role in the Office of Civic Organizing, he built relationships with department heads and people on the ground.
“I know how to get things done. I’ve been doing it — I was doing it as a City Council Aid, I was doing it as part of the leadership team for Mayor Michelle Wu, and now, being in this position, I know where to go, who to go to in terms of how to get things done,” said Santana.
Speaking about getting things done, as Santana prepares to officially take his position in the coming months, he talked about his goal to be a representative of the next generation that is coming and three distinct priorities he would like to focus on.
The first priority he discussed was housing affordability — a topic he indicated needed to be acted on with urgency.
“Housing is a human right, and I believe right now, week to week, month to month, year to year, we’re losing young professionals, families, seniors because they cannot afford to stay here,” he said.
Specifically, Santana spoke about working with public housing residents, fixing public housing infrastructure, creating more units across the city, and creating more homeownership opportunities for people from subsidized housing, low-income communities, and public housing.
Education is another top priority for Santana, and he spoke at length about the investments being made in schools. While he acknowledged investments are being made in the city’s education system, he does not think they are being seen in the classroom by students, teachers, and families.
“When you’re walking into these facilities, and you have broken ceilings, and you have broken bathrooms, and you have technology that’s not working, textbooks that are decades old, what message are you sending to the kids,” he said.
“We want to be able to see the investments that we’re making actually being seen in the classroom,” he later added.
Finally, Santana prioritizes public safety and points to the loss of young kids due to gun violence and how it has been normalized.
“We’re so quick to go to Twitter or to Facebook and send our condolences and prayers. That’s thoughtful and nice, but what are we doing as the City of Boston to try to prevent some of these situations from happening? What are we doing to really try to protect our youth and our families here in the City of Boston,” he said.
Santana pointed to his personal experience of having truly affordable after-school and summer programs as the best thing that ever happened to him from the standpoint of public safety.
“I want to make sure that these programs, the non-profit programs here in the community, have the support of the city,” said Santana.
While some might view these priorities as complex topics to tackle, Santana believes it is something that is achievable.
“These are very achievable things I’m speaking about. I’m not saying crazy promises that are not obtainable. I think the things that I campaigned on are very achievable are things that we can work with the City Council and the administration to make happen,” he said.
As 2024 draws near, Santana shared his excitement and how he is ready to get to work for Boston residents.
“I’m very excited. I’m thankful for the trust that the residents of Boston have put in me, and I’m proud to say that there was a clear direction that the City of Boston took on November 7th in electing me, and I’m ready to get to work.”