Martin J. Walsh went from underdog in a large field of candidates to mayor of Boston in a victory he credited in large part to the efforts of election staff and volunteers, many of whom hail from the Suffolk University community.
Students such as Rose Garcia and Jonathan Huang worked at all levels of the campaign alongside Suffolk alumni, including Walsh Campaign Manager Megan Costello.
Capitalizing on opportunity
Garcia, a junior Government major, snagged a campaign internship after posing a question to the candidates during the Boston Mayoral Forum held at Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre. Government Professor Rachel Cobb had arranged for students to be part of the program.
Garcia’s question about creating jobs for young people landed her multiple internship offers on the spot. Michael Goldman, a lecturer in the Government Department, introduced Garcia to the future mayor as the forum ended, and Walsh proposed that she intern for his campaign.
Goldman, lead political consultant for the Walsh campaign, pushed her to take the internship.
Says Goldman: “Rose embodies all of the best qualities of Government students at Suffolk.” “Smart,” “focused” and “talented” are just a few words Goldman uses to describe her.
Huang was brought into the campaign by a friend who needed help canvassing neighborhoods.
“I love canvassing; I used to be a door-to-door salesman,” says Huang, a senior majoring in Entrepreneurship and Information Systems and minoring in American Government. For him canvassing would be a “great refresher in taking rejection,” a valuable skill for any businessman.
Huang, whose primary task was collecting voter information and convincing residents to vote for Walsh, found that most people just wanted to feel they were being heard.
“The people wanted to talk to someone. In the eyes of the voter, he or she feels acknowledged by Marty's rep coming all the way to get his or her vote.”
Garcia, as a liaison between headquarters and volunteers and as a canvasser, also had a great deal of voter contact.
“It’s about direct voter contact, having conversations with people, taking what you want and having someone who agrees with you in a place of power,” she says. “Your mayor can change things in your city.”
Educational experience goes to work
Huang found that the networking skills he gained at Suffolk were readily transferable to dealing with the public.
“Networking is very much needed to find pockets of community. And to network is to put yourself out there. … By networking you open doors for yourself because people know people,” he says.
Focused on the future
For Garcia, seeing firsthand the workings of a campaign gave her an idea of what it would be like to go into politics. The campaign introduced her to political figures such as John Barros, Felix Arroyo and Charlotte Golar Richie, all of whom endorsed Walsh after the primaries and any of whom Garcia would be happy to work for in the future.
She’s already met Walsh and other key members of his staff, such as Campaign Manager Megan Costello, a Suffolk alumna whom she’s grown to look up to.
“Megan Costello is such an inspiration to me,” says Garcia. “Walsh has so many smart people working for him.”
Alumna’s political chops
Costello is no stranger to politics or campaigns. Since graduating in 2009, she’s worked as executive assistant to the mayor of Newton, as statewide volunteer coordinator for Edward Markey's U.S. Senate campaign and more.
She described her responsibilities in the Walsh campaign as “holistic,” taking on a variety of day-to-day operations, from dealing with press to field work to fundraising. Months of dedication to the campaign did not go unnoticed. Goldman and other colleagues refer to Costello as “the perfect worker.”
“We really see ourselves, staff and volunteers, as extensions of Marty Walsh’s values,” says Costello. “They are representative of everything Marty stands for.”
Her time on the campaign has taught Costello a great deal about Boston and its residents.
“People of Boston are very passionate about their city,” she says, “That was really special to me.”