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College and Kennedy School Alumna Theodora Skeadas ’12 Announces Cambridge City Council Bid

Harvard College and Kennedy School alumna Theodora Skeadas ’12 announced a run for Cambridge city council last month. The Harvard graduate has experience working on a local campaign and advocating for local businesses.
Harvard College and Kennedy School alumna Theodora Skeadas ’12 announced a run for Cambridge city council last month. The Harvard graduate has experience working on a local campaign and advocating for local businesses. By Courtesy of Theodora Skeadas
By Ryan S. Kim and David R. Shaw, Crimson Staff Writers

Theodora Skeadas ’12 announced her candidacy for Cambridge City Council on Feb. 19 with a tweet that read “Let’s get started!”

Skeadas — who earned a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School in 2016 — said in an interview she considered a run in 2017 but opted instead to helm the successful council campaign for current Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. Now launching her own candidacy, Skeadas said her passion for organizing and for the city itself compelled her to run for office.

“I'm running to fight for a fair economy, a sustainable economy, empower local businesses and hold the city accountable to the progressive leadership that Cambridge deserves,” Skeadas said. “I’m running because I love Cambridge.”

A former board member of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association and the current executive director of nonprofit network Cambridge Local First, Skeadas said she believes one of the biggest issues facing Cambridge is protecting local businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last year, several longtime Cambridge small businesses have closed, including Cafe Pamplona, The People’s Republik, and Border Cafe.

“In Massachusetts, by November, 37 percent of local businesses have closed their doors,” Skeadas said. “It's a disaster, really an existential crisis.”

Skeadas’ colleagues praised her response to the Covid-19 pandemic in her role leading Cambridge Local First. Rachael Solem, the president of the Cambridge bed-and-breakfast Irving House and a member of the nonprofit's board, said that when it comes to the local economy, Skeadas “really gets it."

“She has been by far the most effective, efficient, engaged, intelligent, and inspiring of all of the executive directors we've had,” Solem said. “And that's saying something, because we have had some pretty wonderful and amazing people.”

Skeadas’ platform includes promoting the use of mass transit, implementing clean infrastructure, incentivizing local business initiatives, and adopting electrification requirements to move the city toward net zero carbon emissions.

Skeadas said she believes her advocacy for environmental issues complements her commitment to growing the city's economy.

“I want to elevate the conversation, not just on the importance of a local economy, but also its intense connection to environmental sustainability because locally driven economies are sustainable economies,” Skeadas said. “These are economies of scale that work.”

Laurie F. Rothstein, executive director of the nonprofit Cambridge Volunteer Clearinghouse, called Skeadas' support for local businesses “remarkable."

“She has an incredibly good grounding of what people actually need in order to succeed,” Rothstein said. “Providing information, gathering information, creating places for people to talk together and figure stuff out.”

In addition to protecting local businesses and initiating environmental reforms, Skeadas said she plans to focus her candidacy on equitable education, racial and criminal justice reform, and housing justice.

“Focusing on housing through the lens of the interests of tenants, as opposed to real estate developers, is the lens that I want to employ,” she said. “So readdressing local eviction, and rent control legislation is something that I hope to do.”

Announcing her candidacy nine months in advance of the November election, Skeadas said she plans to use the time to fundraise and research policy issues. In a Feb. 26 tweet, she wrote she raised more than $10,000 during her first week on the campaign trail.

Skeadas said she hopes to use campaign funds to hire a campaign manager by the beginning of May and eventually bring aboard a full staff.

As for what differentiates Skeadas from the rest of the field, she pointed to her “track record of success” in managing Siddiqui’s successful 2017 campaign, in which the mayor reached the second most top choice votes in Cambridge’s ranked choice voting system out of the entire 25-person field.

“I plan to build off of that success,” she said. “In terms of why I’m qualified — I think it's significant experience in Cambridge, a commitment to learning about the important issues, a willingness to grow, a curiosity to improve, and ultimately a passion for public service.”

Many of Skeadas’ colleagues and friends also praised Skeadas for not only her listening skills, but her energy and productivity.

Dan Yonah Ben-Dror Marshall, executive director of Cambridge Community Center for the Arts, said he could not compare Skeadas to other potential candidates because she is “one of a kind."

“Very few people can compete with that energy, initiative, resourcefulness,” he said.

—Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at ryan.kim@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer David R. Shaw can be reached at david.shaw@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidrwshaw.

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City PoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolCambridge City Council