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The Bay State Banner
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Rep. Fox looks back on 16 terms of service

Leaves legacy as skilled motivator

Jule Pattison-Gordon
Rep. Fox looks back on 16 terms of service
In April, state Rep. Gloria Fox received The Caring Force’s highest award, The Caring Bear, for her support of human services. Standing with her are Providers’ Council President Michael Weekes (left) and Caring Force Committee Chair Mike Moloney. (Photo: Photo: Sue Rorke)

The Massachusetts House’s longest-serving woman is preparing to step down. After 16 terms in the state legislature, Seventh Suffolk District state Rep. Gloria Fox decided not to run for reelection. She told the Banner she intends to take some time for her family and to travel, before continuing work with several national groups.

“It was a labor of love,” she said of her time in office. “I left because I felt I needed some time for myself.”

Fox’s district extends from Audubon Circle near Boston University to parts of Back Bay, the Fenway and Roxbury.

Health and human services

During her years in office, Fox has advocated on issues such as health, foster care, criminal justice reform and economic development of her community. Looking back, she highlighted her health advocacy, including helping establish a commission whose recommendations on health disparities became incorporated into Massachusetts’ health care reform law.

“I’ve been very, very active on health and health disparity issues,” she said.

Fox also is a legislator who understands the value of human services and has advocated strongly, said Michael Weekes, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Council of Human Services Providers. Her more than 20-year relationship with the Council predates even his own tenure, Weekes said.

“Rep. Fox has been a stalwart advocate for human services in the community, in addition to social and economic justice for those with less voice,” Weekes told the Banner. “When bills came up for additional increases in salaries for the lowest paid workers, she’s been a voice to help push those through and advocate in support.”

Last month the Caring Force coalition of human services workers and supporters awarded Fox their highest honor, the Caring Bear award.

Powerful voice

As a legislator, Fox was known most for her motivational abilities and strong presence in the community, said former-Senator Bill Owens, who was Fox’s first campaign manager.

“The greatest impact that Gloria had on the community in her terms in office was she was a motivator,” he told the Banner. She inspired constituents to advocate and push for change, he said. “She would motivate them to go out on their own to do some of the things that needed to be done.”

“Her passionate articulation of values for fairness and empowerment really help to energize our campaigns to strengthen the human services community in Boston and also outside,” Weekes said. He recalled in particular a speech Fox gave a few years ago before the Caring Force coalition of human services workers and supporters to encourage them to advocate to their legislators.

State Rep. Byron Rushing first met Fox when she was an organizer working with Boston Housing Authority tenants. He and Owens said that among her strengths has been her responsiveness to constituents. Fox made it known that she was accessible and brought visibility to residents’ concerns, they said.

“She would go into the communities to let people know who she was and what she was trying to do, and that is significant,” Owens recalled.

“She’s developed a very close relationship to her constituency,” Rushing told the Banner. “She has had most of her influence by raising issues that are major concerns to poor people, working class people, especially poor and working class people of color, and has been most influential in that by talking about those issues and raising those issues in the public so there has to be a response from the bureaucracy.”

First office

Fox began as a community organizer, and got to know many residents while serving as executive director of the Roxbury-North Dorchester Area Planning Council, she said. She first entered political office in 1985, when she ran in a special election for her current seat. Doris Bunte, who was vacating the position, and Mel King called upon her to run, Fox said.

Looking national

After leaving office, Fox plans to continue community involvement and advocate on health, human services and foster care in particular, she said.

“I intend to be active on the national side,” she said. She will continue her involvement in Women in Government, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the National Foundation of Woman Legislators. Among the next projects on her list: Women in Government looks to establish a mentoring network that connects women with governmental experience to women seeking to enter the political realm.

“We don’t have the network of women we should have of people who have served in government,” Fox said. “That’s the work that I want to continue to do.”

She also aims to work on health disparities on a national level.

“I’ll be busy,” she said.

Who’s next?

On November 8, voters will select the next Seventh Suffolk District representative. So far three candidates have declared their candidacy: Mary-dith Tuitt, aide to Fox; Chynah Tyler, former aide to Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz; and Monica Cannon, community organizer.