Says she brings the right skills for the City’s “rebirth”
At-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi George has announced that she will be a candidate for mayor this year, putting her citywide political network in play and bringing more than a decade of experience in the classroom to the table.
George, who has been on the Council since being elected in 2015, and has focused on many issues – particularly education and homelessness/substance abuse/mental health issues. She is the chair of the Education Committee and the former chair of the Homelessness, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee.
She said she believes her record on the Council, her experience running a small business in Dorchester (she owns the Stitch House on Dorchester Avenue) and having 13 years in the classroom at East Boston High give her a unique skill set that will help the City in its post-COVID rebirth.
“I am running for mayor,” she said this week. “I spent the last few weeks talking with family, friends and supporters and pulling together what’s good for the City and how can I contribute. This is the answer. I believe as mayor of Boston I have the experience and skill set to be the leader this moment needs. We think about this crisis and this pandemic, but we need to also think about getting to a period of recovery that can be a sustained period of recovery and growth for the City. I believe my skill set and work on the Council makes me the person to do the job of mayor.”
Again, she said her experiences will be key in the rollout of her administration, if elected, and her skill set as a teacher, mother, small business owner and elected official are just what the City will need.
“My experience and experiences as a teacher and small business owner and the City Councilor whose been able to get a lot of work done, those are the pieces I think will provide an opportunity to have a successful administration,” she said. “Having an Essaibi-George administration for me is one that will provide that opportunity for a sustained recovery. I hope for a rebirth on the other side of that recovery for the City of Boston. I think I can best position the city for that rebirth.”
One key piece of her campaign will not be about concentrating on the other candidates out there – two of which are currently her colleagues on the Council. Instead, she’ll focus on what she is bringing to the table. One thing she quickly brings as an attribute is a defined, citywide political network that she said she has worked hard to build as an at-large councilor. While others might not have that network, she said it will be something she leans on in the coming election.
“I’ve worked really hard as a city councilor to make sure every community feels my support and my presence and knows I’m responsible to the work that’s important to them,” she said. “That’s in every single neighborhood. There is no community that is not important enough to be paid attention to as part of my work.”
One strong issue for Essaibi George is her involvement in the homelessness and drug abuse issues over many years, a former chair of a former Committee that addressed those issues. She said it is important to remember they are issues that affect the whole city and not just the South End and Mass/Cass. She said she would treat it as a citywide issues, including efforts at decentralization.
“Mass and Cass is central to that conversation although homelessness and addiction and those dealing with SUDs are felt across our city and not just Mass and Cass,” she said. “Mass and Cass is just a part of the city we focus on because of the large numbers of services available, which brings a lot of individuals there who are suffering from the area. It is a crisis of the whole city and certainly beyond… As an at-large councilor I’ve worked to respond to the needs of all of those communities whether it’s responding to the challenges of poverty, the need for higher-quality education, or the need to de-centralize (social) services because the impact of homelessness on a particular community.”
Another key issue for her is the public schools. While she is a former teacher and chair of the Education Committee, she is also a mother of children that attend BPS schools. With those three things in mind, she attends most every School Committee meeting – some of them going into the wee hours of the next day. It was in the wee hours of one of those School Committee meetings last fall when Essaibi George had a “moment.”
When the former chair of the Committee seemed to be mocking the names of some Asian American parents, it was Essaibi George that was the first to call it out, and push to hold the chair accountable. That has led to the resignation of the chair, and a sincere re-training by the Committee through anti-racist seminars. Essaibi George said she hasn’t been afraid to call out such things, and if elected mayor, will continue to challenge those who show bad behavior.
“I am not afraid to hold people accountable for acting inappropriately or for being offensive and for not representing what we here as a city are all about,” she said. “As someone who has a different name; I have an ethnic name. I have an Arab name – Annissa Essaibi – I took great offense in that mocking of ethnic names by the former chair and called him out on it. I think that’s important. I think elected officials should call out bad behavior and hold others responsible for that bad behavior. That’s what I did in that case.”
Her forthright style is something that she believes will differentiate her from the supposed pack of candidates, and she believes it will be a breath of fresh air – something her supporters already know about and something she hopes others in the city will become more familiar with.
“Voters know my style,” she said. “I am very direct and very clear. I speak very simply and opening about my thoughts and hopes and desires for this city. The work that remains undone is so important and I look forward to doing it.”
But if she were mayor, would it end her reputation as a die-hard hockey mom – one who often posts videos of her kids playing sports at far-flung ice rinks or nearby baseball diamonds? That, she said, will never change.
“I will still be a hockey mother,” she laughed. “You will still find me banging on the ice and the glass on occasion as mayor of Boston and continuing to horrify my children when I do so. You’ll find me at the baseball field, the lacrosse field, the football field – there will be a sport underway and I am proud of being my kids’ greatest cheerleader on the field of play and in the classroom.”
Councilor Essaibi George announced her candidacy on Thursday morning, Jan. 28, in front of East Boston High School – where she spent 13 years as a teacher and coach.