All three of these Mothers Out Front members went from active involvement in their local chapters to running for public office and winning in their city or town. We are lucky to have them and many more driving the Mothers Out Front climate agenda from enhanced positions of power.
Here are five tips from each on running, winning, and providing leadership.
Colleen Bradley-MacArthur started out in 2017 volunteering as a campaign manager for a friend’s city council campaign. During that campaign her passion for environmental organizing caught fire. She worked with her Mothers Out Front team members in Waltham to influence public policy on climate by hosting small events such as ice cream socials and educational forums with neighboring climate activists.
In that role, Colleen learned to channel her energy and focus on critical climate change issues and solutions. She also gained the confidence to speak to larger groups. From co-lead of her chapter, she moved on to an elected position as city Councillor-at-Large on the Waltham City Council (2021), after executing a vigorous campaign that involved talking to
people throughout the Waltham community. She wants us to know:
- Moms are powerful!
- Don’t be afraid to follow your passions. (Her love of cooking led her to learning about emission- reducing induction cooktops and then to ways people can address climate change in their communities.)
- Build a robust emotional and family support system whether you have kids or not.
- Keep yourself safe by planning secure forums in which to talk to members of your community. Consider not following the comments of social media trolls!
- Take the best ideas from other communities, such as developing a great climate plan and passing community aggregation legislation, tailoring them to your city, and lobbying hard to make them a reality.
Alisa Pearson was elected to one of three Select Board positions in the town of Pelham in Central Massachusetts. She was selected as Board Chair where she brought her leadership skills and confidence in public speaking, developed in her professional career, to the new role. She is passionate about civic engagement, particularly as it relates to the climate movement.
Her tenure was marked by the Board’s notable achievements in climate policy: secured grants for climate initiatives, installed heat pumps in some public buildings, forged bonds with two neighboring communities to pass community choice aggregation, and passed green resolutions, among other initiatives.
At the same time, as an active member of her area Mothers Out Front group, she helped initiate and execute the Monday Actions newsletter. This unique civic tool went out every Monday to 1400 people outlining quick actions, such as emails and letters to stakeholders, to influence public policy around climate.
As part of moving on from her role on the Board, she mentored a Mother Out Front member in her campaign to help her make the leap from volunteer climate activist to Select Board member. Alisa makes several key points about running for public positions:
- Get experience working with your local chapter of Mothers Out Front. Her volunteer with Mothers Out Front work helped her grow as a person and find her voice. She would never have run for Select Board
were it not for Mothers Out Front.
- Civic engagement is critical to solving climate change. Many of us in Massachusetts have a “massive blind spot” about how to influence decision-making of elected representatives.
- As a woman in a position of power be aware that you will encounter some cultural bias on the
basis of sexual identity.
- Elevate the importance of taking action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
- Support marginalized people in taking central positions of leadership and help amplify their
Kathleen Scanlon was elected to the Brookline Town Meeting in 2021 while serving as Brookline Coordinator for Mothers Out Front. She brings a laser focus to incentivizing and legislating the use of local, renewable resources regionally. Her background as an architect has allowed her to bring her expertise in HVAC to her activism.
A longtime member of Mothers Out Front Brookline, Kathleen has helped drive numerous campaigns including gas leaks, health of trees near natural gas leaks, green electricity, green living tours and others.
Recently, she was a petitioner in two warrant articles focusing on banning fossil fuel combustion in new construction and gut renovations in Brookline.
A positive sign for her is that city residents are more willing to vote money for green electricity projects than they were in 2010 when she started her climate work.
Kathleen offers these tips drawn from her experience:
- Get to know the process by which Warrant Articles are written and passed in your town or city by working on Mothers Out Front campaigns.
- Get up to speed on issues of ratepayers including both renters and homeowners.
- Find out about the different concerns people in your community have.
- Take every opportunity to conduct tabling for Mothers Out Front. This experience talking with people, answering questions, and explaining in a simple manner complex climate issues will be very helpful during your campaign and tenure.
- Make connections with people throughout your community so that during your election campaign your visibility and relationships can drive success.
As these three Mothers Out Front leaders demonstrate, experience within local chapters can provide skills and knowledge that will help you get elected. As a member of your local government, you have greater power to develop policy that will move us all towards attaining Mothers Out Front’s critical climate goals.
There are numerous other Mothers Out Front members who have won campaigns for positions of influence locally, and we welcome their comments and suggestions below.