QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 1 — Please introduce yourself

The Marblehead News posed a series of common questions to the six Democratic candidates for state representative from the 8th Essex District. There is no declared Republican candidate, meaning the winner of the primary Tuesday, Sept. 6 is likely to head to Beacon Hill to serve Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn. Over the next two weeks, the Marblehead News will post the candidates’ responses to our questions, side by side, alternating the order as we go.

Q1. Tell us about yourself (occupation/education, appointed positions/elected offices, how you ended up in the 8th Essex District)?

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

I hold a bachelors of arts in Philosophy from the University of Vermont and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. I practice law primarily as a child and family welfare attorney in the Lynn and Salem Juvenile Courts. In this role, I am appointed by the state to represent children and parents who have been separated by the Department of Families and Children and protect my clients’ due process rights and ensure that the Department is providing necessary services. I also represent children and parents in Children Requiring Assistance cases and work with many parties to ensure that the child is provided access to the services needed to succeed. I represent clients in Probate and Family Court as an appointed attorney in guardianship matters or as private counsel for clients in family law matters. I am also a trained mediator and mediate settlements between parties related to a variety of legal issues.  

I moved with my family to Swampscott in 2013. Within two months, I became an elected Town Meeting member, and serve in that role to the present day. That same year, I was appointed to the Essex County Commission on the Status of Women for five years, three years of which I sat as chair. From 2014-2019, I served as a twice-appointed member of the Swampscott Finance Committee. Most recently, I served as an elected member of the Swampscott Select Board for three years, finishing my term as chair in 2022.

Diann Slavit-Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

I am a full-time immigration attorney. When not doing paid work, I volunteer my time as a pro-bono attorney with the non-profit KIND (Kids In Need of Defense), helping unaccompanied children navigate the immigration process. I’ve also worked as a pro-bono attorney with the Lawyer of the Day Program at Essex Probate Court, helping low-income litigants with restraining orders and custody proceedings.

I’m a mom (my husband and I have four kids between us, the youngest at Village School). I’m a surfer with a love of the ocean, and a long-time advocate against gun violence. I’m a lifelong Democratic activist, having served in my first job out of college on the staff of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. I interned on Capitol Hill (while attending Merrimack College) with Democrats on both the House and Senate side.

I grew up in Haverhill, the last of nine kids. I’m an identical twin (6 minutes younger than my twin sister, Donna), and I’ve lived on the North Shore my entire life. My father, Captain Red Slavit, was the harbormaster in Haverhill throughout my childhood, and he instilled in me a commitment to public service.

My family chose to live in Marblehead based on my love of the ocean and my husband’s long-time connection to the community. (His father lived on Front Street for many years, two doors up from the Barnacle.)

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

I am a lifelong resident of this district, born and raised in Swampscott. I graduated from Swampscott High School in 2014 and joined the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee at 16 years old. 

I graduated summa cum laude from Salem State University in 2018. During my time in college, I was hired as a K-12 substitute teacher in Swampscott and discovered my passion for mentoring young people, soon after becoming an assistant coach on the Swampscott Middle School cross country team.

In spring 2019, I became the head coach of girls’ and boys’ track & field at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. The number of athletes joining the team doubled under my leadership, and I worked to relaunch the Lynn All-City Track & Field and Cross Country Championship meets, bringing together hundreds of athletes across Lynn. 

I was in the middle of law school when COVID hit us, so I know what transitioning to online learning is like, simultaneously witnessing how lockdown stunted my students’ and athletes’ social and emotional development. 

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, my friends and I banded together and launched Play for Change, a 24-hour live benefit broadcast. We raised funds for Know Your Rights Camp, a nonprofit that empowers minority communities. I served as president, raising over $10,000.

In May 2022, I graduated from Suffolk University Law School. My lifelong experience and training have prepared me to be an effective advocate on Beacon Hill as your state representative.

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

I am the youngest of five children (the Colbert family) that grew up in Marblehead’s public housing. I attended public schools and raised my daughters in Marblehead.

I am currently the department administrator to the Harbormaster’s office. I am the three-time elected president of the Municipal Employees Union, elected board member of the AFL-CIO, North Shore Labor Council and the Marblehead Democratic Town Committee.

My father’s family emigrated from Ireland to Marblehead six generations ago, and my mother emigrated from France when she met my father while he was in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s.

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

I came to Massachusetts for college at Boston University in 1985, pre-med and humanities. I became engaged in issues of homelessness and hunger and created a Student Food Rescue solution to bring excess food from dining halls to homeless shelters. I worked on housing policy and went to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

I have been a health care leader driving large-scale change for 25 years. I was the chief financial officer for the $8.5 billion Massachusetts Medicaid program, where I was responsible for proposing and managing 40 percent of the state budget. I also played a substantial role in implementing Massachusetts’ universal coverage health care reform by negotiating with the federal government, the Legislature, and many stakeholder groups.

I was also the chief financial officer of Neighborhood Health Plan, chief administrative officer of transformation at Cambridge Health Alliance and CEO of Perfect Health, an organization that delivers primary care and mental health care to seniors at home.

My family moved to the 8th Essex because of its unique beauty by the ocean and the great community here.

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

A commitment to public service has shaped my personal and professional lives in profound ways. It is the through line, starting with my early years. Yes, I was the student council enthusiast in high school and later at Endicott College, where I began my higher education. That was followed by degrees in government from the University of Virginia and public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School. 

I was awarded a Harvard Public Service Fellowship in recognition of my commitment to service. By then, I had spent years working as a senior aide on Capitol Hill and as a legislative analyst on Beacon Hill. I witnessed the positive power of government to change lives, and I learned the craft of drafting legislation and creating strategies for passing it.

My love of words led me to political speechwriting after graduate school and heading up the communications shop of the state’s leading nonpartisan think tank. 

It was my experience as a congressional aide that introduced me to the beauty and significance of the 8th Essex District. From Washington, I worked on behalf of Marblehead, Swampscott and Lynn in the 104th Congress, focusing exclusively on social policy.

That’s also when I met my now husband, who was the congressman’s press secretary. Almost 17 years ago, we decided Marblehead would be the perfect place to raise our family. From here, I have written speeches for executives and political and university leaders, while continuing to have an impact on the community through political activism.

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