Marblehead resident Jenny Armini has been sworn in as the new 8th Essex District state representative today. Armini submitted this column to the Marblehead Current to mark the occasion.
Having scrupulously avoided brushes with the law in my 53 years, I was surprised to receive a court summons the other day. Granted, this one came worded in olde English, with a gold seal, signed by the governor, but I was taken aback.
“Whereas, it appears, by the returns of votes for Representative… You are therefore hereby summoned to attend a General Court, to be holden at the Capitol, in Boston, on the first Wednesday of the month of January…”
That decorative piece of paper, resembling more an academic degree than a modern court document, conveyed a sense of formal gravity I had not contemplated since winning a crowded Democratic primary on Sept. 6 and an uncontested general election on Nov. 8. My focus has been and will continue to be the day-to-day concerns of Marblehead, Swampscott and Lynn families.
Yet, I am about to enter an institution with its own set of rules and mores developed over centuries. Delivering results for the 8th Essex District requires operating within an established system and with individuals representing communities as agrarian as we are coastal, as rural as we are dense and transit focused. What unites us, though, is a common desire to build strong, safe neighborhoods, on a clean, sustainable planet, supported by an economy of equal opportunity and educational excellence. These values cross all lines of distinction, however wide, and overcome all barriers, however high.
When it comes to fighting climate change—a top priority for me—I am looking forward to working with the legislators who created the state’s roadmap to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (hopefully sooner). They gave us powerful tools in last session’s climate bill, but much more work remains. Electrifying transportation, retrofitting our older housing stock and building coastal resiliency all demand continued, focused attention.
Every community in the commonwealth is managing the lingering effects of the pandemic, especially in our public schools. Learning loss and mental health challenges complicate a full and robust recovery. I refuse to write off a generation of students (including my own daughter). There is no one-size-fits-all answer; collaboration among state and local education leaders is needed to facilitate the flexibility and funding required at the local level. What works for elementary students in one city or town does not necessarily work in another—and certainly what works for younger students does not work for older teens.
Housing is another issue that is largely developed at the local level, but one that can be incentivized by the state in the form of zoning flexibility, tax policy and funding for public housing. I am greatly encouraged by Governor-elect Maura Healey’s recognition that housing production is inseparable from the state’s economy and well-being. Longtime residents who want to stay in their homes and their grown children who want to return are increasingly priced out of the market. With that comes a tearing at the fabric of our communities—the support systems that sustain us, the valued voices that guide us and the teachers, first responders and creative individuals who protect and enrich our lives.
These are just a few of the issues I am focused on as I am sworn in as a representative of the 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts today, this first Wednesday in January. I am looking forward to sharing the moment with my family and with the people of Marblehead, Swampscott and Lynn, who have given me the incredible opportunity to serve on your behalf. I offer my heartfelt thanks, and I pledge to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all our families.
I have a terrific role model in former state Rep. Lori Ehrlich. Regardless of where I go in our communities or on Beacon Hill, Lori’s name is synonymous with intelligence, commitment, excellence and a deep passion for public policy. “You have big shoes to fill!” is the inevitable response when people learn about my new job. The 8th Essex District benefited from 14 years of incomparable leadership from the “Mother Grizzly from Marblehead.” And she continues to protect us as the New England region one administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A lover of history, I often look to the past for inspiration, even guidance. We are fortunate to live in a town that offers plenty of it. Patrick O’Donnell’s “The Indispensables” highlights the racial diversity within the ranks of Glover’s Marblehead Regiment. Young men like John Rhodes Russell and Emmanuel “Manuel” Soto fought side by side. They were joined by a unity of purpose that was rooted in the equalizing work of life at sea. The spirit of revolutionary Marblehead was of “one great family,” a spirit that very much exists today. It is what inspired me to run in the first place. Bringing our progressive, equalizing sense of purpose—the spirit of one great family—to state government is the timeless charge of this legislative seat. It is my honor and privilege to keep it.