After graduating college, Henrietta Davis decided to pursue higher education by going to graduate school in social work, influenced by the beginning of the environmental movement in the 1960s. Davis, a self-proclaimed activist for sustainability, sought to learn how to move an issue forward.
While filling out her application to Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work, she was stunned when she saw that she had to pick between two focuses—community organizing or counseling. She took a pencil and checked off community organizing with the thought, “Well, that sounds like me.”
“I went to graduate school in social work to become a change agent. That’s how I see myself,” Davis says.
That check mark helped shape Davis’ career. She has worked to promote change in her community through her experiences as a city planner, a Cambridge School Committee member, and founder of the Healthy Children Task Force. Now, she is running for re-election for a ninth term on the Cambridge City Council.
A HEALTHY CITY
Serving on the Council since 1996, Davis’s policies have continually focused on healthy living and a sustainable environment. Davis says she sees herself as being ahead of the curve. She analyzes trends in Cambridge’s population to decide what they will need for a better future.
When first elected to the Council, Davis says she was on the “earthy, crunchy agenda” but has since seen a shift in interest on sustainability issues across the Council.
“When I came to the Council, people were just starting to pay attention to climate change,” Davis says. “Everyone was doing it, but now they’re embracing it,” she adds.
Davis says she was one of the first Cambridge city councilors to encourage sustainability through policy change. In early 2000, she supported a policy that required all new buildings in Cambridge to be LEED certified.
“I want to make Cambridge a model green city,” Davis says.
Davis’ initiatives for this year include labeling the “green” level of Cambridge buildings, improving the energy efficiency of district heating in schools, and educating residents about energy saving practices.
Beyond Cambridge, Davis has taken trips to Europe to learn about sustainability. She recently attended a conference in Hamburg, Germany, where she learned about making public transportation safer, cheaper, and more efficient.
Davis worked as an administrator at Agassiz Preschool from 1985 to 1994 and was elected to the school committee in 1988. She founded the Healthy Children Task Force in 1990, a community group that has led public health initiatives for children. Davis still serves on the board.
Davis also supports improved services for seniors and greater housing options. This new initiative was prompted by shifting demographics in Cambridge, which has seen an influx of older residents.
The major themes of Davis’ campaign are “greening” the city and supporting the health of children and seniors.