By Melissa Moore-Randall
Lifelong resident Revere resident, Juan Jaramillo, looks to prioritize the economic, Covid and opioid crises if elected to the State Representative seat vacated by Bob DeLeo in January.
Juan’s Revere roots are longstanding. The son of hard-working parents who came to America after escaping violence in Colombia, where his mother nearly lost her life, Jaramilo was raised in Revere and attended Revere Public Schools. He attended the Paul Revere and William McKinley Elementary Schools, Garfield Middle School, and is a graduate of Revere High School. “My mom instilled in me the virtue of gratefulness and from a young age I began to give back to the community that raised me and welcomed my family. Since I graduated high school, I have been a mentor for young people, served as a Big Brother in the Big Brother Big Sister program, as Program Director for Revere Youth in Action, and as a coach for Pop Warner football in Revere.” Juan, who is engaged to Crystal Villegas, is the only candidate on the ballot from Revere.
After graduating from Revere High School, he took a job as a janitor cleaning intensive care units at Mass General Hospital to pay his way through UMass Boston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. This led to an internship with now retired Speaker of the House, Bob DeLeo. “I interned in Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office, before I had the honor of serving Revere and Winthrop as Budget and Policy Director for State Senator Joseph Boncore. During my time at the State House, I helped secure millions of dollars for housing, public transportation, and health care in Winthrop and Revere. Currently, I am the political coordinator at SEIU 32BJ where I have the pleasure of working to protect the rights of frontline workers who are leading the fight against COVID-19 every single day.”
Jaramillo’s decision to run for the seat of the State Representative of the 19th Suffolk district is due in part to representing the community he said saved him. “I am running to be the next State Representative of the 19th Suffolk District because this community saved my life, and I have devoted my life to supporting our community and want to work tirelessly to continue doing that within the State Legislature. Additionally, a marking point in my community involvement came upon the realization that my parents were working way too much, earning way too little, and that that did not seem fair. Further, I care deeply about my community and share the lived experience of many of our most marginalized residents, so I come to this work not just as someone who cares about policy, but as someone who understands the impact of those policies on me and my loved ones. That, combined with my experience on Beacon Hill, will make me an effective legislator from day one.”
Juan feels his experience working on issues related to the Covid pandemic and climate change also make him the best candidate for DeLeo’s seat. “Our coastal communities are facing unprecedented challenges from the Covid pandemic and climate change: we need a representative who understands these challenges from a personal level, and who has the experience to get the job done from day one. I was raised by our community and have served our community. As Budget and Policy Director for State Senator Joe Boncore, I helped secure $150,000 to launch the Revere Substance Use Disorder Initiative, millions to expand access to the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to Revere and Winthrop residents, and millions of dollars of funding for our public schools and after-school programs for our youth. As Senator Boncore’s lead staffer on the Joint Committee for Housing, I helped pass the single largest Housing Bond bill in Massachusetts history: the $1.8 billion authorization provided new and critical funding toward the development of public and affordable housing across the Commonwealth. I also worked to pass amendments in the historic 2018 Criminal Justice Reform bill that expanded access to diversion programs, and raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction. As political director of SEIU 32BJ, I am fighting for workers’ rights and organizing workers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. I have organized successful contract negotiations with security guards and custodial staff. After seeing the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our community, I worked to start a public health campaign with community stakeholders, elected officials, and healthcare professionals to spread awareness about the virus, and keep our community safe and healthy.”
Like many of his opponents, Jaramillo speaks highly of the man whose office he wishes to occupy. “Speaker DeLeo left a remarkable legacy that his successor will have to protect from day one. I am thankful for the opportunity to have served with the Speaker as an intern in his office, and saw first-hand that his office provided unparalleled constituent services, fought for fair funding for our communities and schools, and advocated to protect our coastlines from the effects of climate change.”
He noted that economic recovery, jobs, Covid and the opioid crisis are the major issues presently affecting Revere and Winthrop that need top priority for Speaker DeLeo’s successor. “We need to support small businesses so they can recover from the pandemic. We also must hold large institutions, like Amazon and MassPort, accountable for noise, air, and water pollution, and we need to invest in Revere and Winthrop by creating good-paying jobs that allow all working people to afford basic life necessities like housing, food, and saving for their retirement. The COVID crisis has exposed health, social, and economic issues and disparities in the communities of Revere and Winthrop. Upon seeing the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the community, I have dedicated my work to represent frontline workers at SEIU 32BJ who are leading the fight against COVID-19 every single day. As your State Representative, I will fight for additional funding for community health centers as they battle COVID-19, and support for workers by expanding critical safety nets, like unemployment and workers’ compensation and support for small businesses. Our cities have been hard-hit by the opioid crisis. In high school, I worked with North Suffolk Community Health Initiative to combat substance use disorder. I want to continue fighting to expand on the long term, regional policy solutions to the mental health and addiction crisis.”
The 2019 Student Opportunity Act is one particular piece of legislation that Jaramillo would also focus on continuing to lobby for if elected. “The historic 2019 Student Opportunity Act will help our public schools get the increased investments they need only if the state raises money to fully fund public education. In the Legislature, I will work to make sure the state has the resources we need to fully fund our schools. We live in one of the richest states in the country, and our public schools will get the investments our students and teachers deserve if our state’s wealthiest residents, corporations, and suburbs pay their fair share in taxes.”
There is also legislation that DeLeo enacted that Jaramillo would like to see changed. “Substance use has devastated our communities, and Speaker DeLeo worked tirelessly to resolve this issue. Still, some of the most disparate impacts of being an user has largely been the inability to find work because some users might have a non-violent drug offense on their record. The criminal landmark reform that Speaker DeLeo led on in 2018 made an attempt to fix this particular issue via expungement, but red tape in state government has made it prohibitive for many non-violent drug offenders from clearing their record and getting their life back on track. I would fight to make sure we have more compassionate legislation that helps the most vulnerable in our communities and that we make the changes in the law to tackle this particular issue.”
The primary for DeLeo’s seat is slated for March 2 with a special election set for March 30th. For more information about his campaign you may visit his website www.Juanforrep.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram @JuanForRep.