A recent UMass Boston alum, Abigail Dickson, is running for city council in Medford, MA. Dickson, 23, graduated from UMass Boston in 2020 with a degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a minor in Theatre Arts. The Mass Media had the opportunity to sit down with Dickson and talk to them about their campaign experiences and their time at UMass Boston.
Question: Why are you running for city council?
Answer: The issue that got me excited about running was housing affordability in my city. I grew up in West Medford and saw a lot of people move out of my neighborhood over the years, and it felt like a very constant thing. Occasionally, a house would get bought up by a developer who would flip it and turn it into something fancy like condos. It affected me as I was growing up. Now I’m renting in Medford, so I’m seeing how truly unaffordable it has become to live here, which is something that has happened to other cities and towns in the Boston area. I want to make sure that anyone who wants to live here can afford to live here. I think there is a lot of policy action that we can take to support people who are experiencing housing instability and to help support more affordable housing in Medford.
Q: What is your platform?
A: In addition to housing affordability, climate action and resiliency is a huge part of my platform. I think as a young person, but also for everyone, it’s scary to think about the future of my city and the potential effects that we face from the climate crisis. There is always a lot of local action that you can take on this type of issue, so I want to make sure that we are addressing that head-on. I also want to make sure that we are supporting and empowering the young people in our city to get them involved in our political scene. That includes trying to lower the municipal voting age so that 16- and 17-year-olds can vote in elections. I think that voting is a habit, and young people are excited to get involved, so we need to bring them in early to cultivate that habit. I think we can also open that inclusion in the governmental process to other areas, like extending voting rights to non-citizens who are Medford residents and making our governmental system more open and accessible across the board. That includes issues that are very specific to Medford, such as renewing our charter so that we can have more representation instead of a fully at-large system.
Q: How would you say your campaign is going so far?
A: You know, I’m having a lot of fun and it’s going great. I have knocked on many doors in Medford, and my team of volunteers has knocked on many doors. We’ve called a lot of people, and we’ve raised a good amount of money; we just need to keep this momentum for the next few weeks until Election Day. But I am feeling positive!
Q: What is the top goal you hope to achieve during your first year in office?
A: I want to just get to work on these policy ideas that I have. I think that’s what any elected official wants to do! Housing, climate, youth empowerment, etc. Specific policies include a municipal affordable housing trust, establishing an Office of Housing Stability, and creating a more walkable and bikeable city.
Q: What’s been the hardest part of the campaign so far?
A: Asking for money. Campaigns require a lot of resources and money to operate. It can be hard, especially as a young, queer person, to tell people “Hey, I need some money to do this”. But we have a very strong mission with strong goals and ideas, so people have been excited to support that. It’s been both really hard and really exciting.
Q: How did your time at UMass Boston prepare you for running a city council campaign?
A: That’s a good question. I think UMass Boston, unlike many other schools, has a very unique student body; we are at all stages of our lives. We are typically working while we are in school, we have a million different things going on in our lives outside of campus, some people live on campus and some people don’t—it’s just a real mix of hardworking and dedicated people who are choosing to get a college education within the larger tapestry of their lives. I think that was an inspiring place to be attending school because that’s reflective of the world at large; this can be the case with any college, but especially UMass Boston because it is mostly a commuter school, it is a state school and it’s in the middle of the city. Also, being a part of the Women, Gender, and Sexualities department gave me a lot of perspective on tackling issues and thinking about them from an intersectional perspective. It’s important to look at these issues and figure out how the policies can affect different people, how we can uplift everyone through policy action, etc.
Q: What is something you wish you knew before starting your campaign?
A: So many things! There are so many intricacies and details of running a campaign that I thought I had learned about, but when it comes down to actually going through with it…there’s always an “I wish I had known more” perspective. I wish I knew more about running campaigns, but I think I’ve been able to do a fairly okay job.
Q: What is some advice you have for students at UMass Boston that may be interested in running for an elected position at some point in their lives?
A: Come talk to me! I am happy to share my experience and knowledge. Also…you should do it. Go for it. If you’re really passionate about certain policy ideas, go for it. It’s important to get younger people involved, especially people from different backgrounds. It’s a lot of emotional and physical labor, and it’s a huge undertaking. You must have a lot of confidence in yourself and your ideas. But it’s very rewarding and exhilarating, and hopefully, you’ll win and be able to pass all sorts of awesome policies!
If you want to learn more about Abigail’s campaign, check out their website at www.dickson4medford.com, or follow their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@dickson4medford) to receive updates about their campaign. There are also volunteer opportunities for people looking to get involved. The election is on Nov. 2, 2021, and all residents of Medford are encouraged to vote.