Gatepost Interview John Stefanini Mayoral Candidate

Courtesy of John Stefanini

What is your educational and professional background?

I am an educator and lawyer by profession. I went through the Framingham Public Schools (FPS). I graduated from Framingham South High School in 1982, went to UMass Amherst and graduated in ’86. [I] then went to law school at New England School of Law and Loyola International School of Law in Rome, finished up in 1990 and taught in the FPS for a very short period of time – social studies. And then, I was elected. I ran against a 24-year incumbent when I was 25, for selectman. And spent 10 years in local government – six as a selectman and five terms as a state representative. They overlapped with each other. But that was basically from 1991-2001. I’ve taught a lot of lectures at different universities. I’ve been an adjunct faculty member, until this last year, at Suffolk Law.

When you were an undergraduate student, did you see yourself getting into politics?

Interestingly enough, I’ve always been a supporting actor and not the lead actor. So in high school, I was always the person who volunteered to help raise the funds, organize the events – but I never ran for class officer. I was active in our Student Government. And when I was at UMass, I was active in the Student Government world, but I never ran for office. In 1996, when I came back to Framingham, I helped organize and run campaigns for candidates to change the status quo. We challenged and got candidates to run for school committee and planning board and moderator. The next step was to run a progressive candidate for selectman. A dear friend of mine, a woman in the community, was going to run against the 24-year incumbent. … You have to put in perspective –  it’s a challenge to run against the status quo. The woman, the month before the filing deadline – she was 43 – and she became pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to have a kid for a long time, and she said, ‘I’m going to stay in bed for the next eight months.’ … So, I went around and tried to find someone else to run and in the process of trying to find someone else to run, I got drafted, and that’s how I got into running for office.

How do you see the Framingham State community playing a role in the city?

I’ve been in and around this campus my entire life. We’re lucky to have Framingham State as part of the fabric of Framingham. I’m excited about the partnership between Framingham State and Danforth. I think that will inure to the benefit of the community, the students in our community, to Framingham State, the Framingham State faculty. … The relationship between Framingham State and the community is a good one. Your president, Javier, has been spectacular, accessible. Dale Hamel is a legend in the community in terms of his ability to help solve problems and be part of community activity. There are always issues with any large institution and the community. It does not matter. The question is not whether or not you have challenges, the question is how do you partner to solve those problems. There’s a good healthy dialogue. I would look to foster and grow that dialogue, but I think it’s a good dialogue. It was like that in the ’90s when I was here. We used to meet with leaders here once a month. I think that’s a good thing.

We’ve recently experienced hate crimes on campus. How would you address hate in the city?

There’s no place for hate in Framingham. Period. We need to challenge acts of hate whenever and wherever they occur. … We need to stand up. I will tell you, I have spent my entire adult life – as I was taught by my mother and grandmother – standing up for economic, social and environmental injustice whenever it occurs. When marriage equality was challenged a decade before it was an issue in our Commonwealth, and divided two of our churches, I stood with the deacons of those churches to provide open and affirming churches. When environmental injustice hit three properties in South Framingham, I stood with the neighbors to make sure the properties got cleaned up and got addressed. When Euri Stamps was shot unarmed in his home, I called for the police to disband the SWAT team and to create a police advisory committee, which is in our charter because I wrote it. When the immigrant community in the ’90s – long before DACA or Trump – were threatened by bullies in our community, I stood up to them and drafted a policy which has endured to this day of making sure Framingham ensures the safety of its residence in places of worship, of work, in its homes and in its schools. So, I’m not a stranger to fighting issues.

Even after a student was killed in 2012 while crossing Route 9, students still opt to cross at the railroad tracks. How would you improve pedestrian safety throughout the city?

I’m aware of the incident, and the loss of life is always heartfelt. The charter establishes a citizen driven traffic commission to address issues of traffic and safety to bring greater attention to it at a consumer level. And so, issues like this need to be addressed in a thoughtful way where we’re looking at it from a consumer perspective. … The solution is found by bringing the interested parties together, having a conversation, and figuring out how we provide greater safety and access. The pedestrian bridge across Route 9 was closed for a long time, which created a problem. We need to include in that conversation the on-campus shuttle buses and the off-campus MWRTA buses. We need to include on-campus and off-campus police and public safety, and figure out the best solution. I am prepared to do the solution that works for the community – that provides the greatest amount of safety.

Do you have any advice for students?

You are a leader. You and your colleagues will be the leaders of our society – be it government, industry, business, religion or philanthropy. Worry not about being productive and think more about how you want to be productive because the things you choose to do in life, you will succeed at.  … You need to figure out what job you want because you are going to get it. Now that doesn’t mean that you’re going succeed at 100 percent of the things you do, but if you travel in a direction and … you start moving down a path, your talent, energy and skill will be obvious to the people around you and you will succeed in that path because of it. 

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