Somerville's 29-Year-Old Delegate to the Democratic National Convention
Samantha Shusterman is attending her first national convention as a delegate, but the 29-year-old is no stranger to political organizing.
If it were a decade ago, Samantha Shusterman is not sure someone like her, a 29-year-old woman from Somerville, would be heading to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate from Somerville's congressional district, which also encompasses much of Boston and Cambridge.
But in the last 10 years, in Shusterman's opinion, Massachusetts Democrats have "made the party more accessible and more relevant."
For much of that decade, Shusterman has had a front-row view of Democratic politics at the state and national level. Not yet 30, the Somerville resident already has a long resume as a political organizer.
The Connecticut native originally came to Boston in 2001 to attend Boston University, and as a student there she became a leader of the college Democrats. In 2004 she got involved in John Kerry's presidential campaign as president of the BU for Kerry group.
The Democratic National Convention was in Boston that year, and Shusterman was brought on board the Kerry campaign as the convention's motor pool coordinator, she said. She was the scheduler for about 600 drivers who ferried party dignitaries to and from Logan airport.
She also got to attend the convention, though not as a delegate. "I got to see Obama's speech, which was amazing," she said, referring to President Barack Obama's keynote address at that convention.
Her work on the Kerry campaign continued, and she joined the campaign full time, organizing in Missouri and Ohio, she said.
After graduating from Boston University in 2005, she spent a year working in non-profits, and she was Jarrett Barios' field director in his state senate race in 2006, she said. Then she was volunteer coordinator with Deval Patrick's gubernatorial campaign.
When Patrick took office, Shusterman was deputy director of personnel for about a year and a half, she said.
"I actually moved the governor's stuff into the State House the night before he was inaugurated," she said, talking about moving computers, papers and other stuff. "We moved it in at 11:30 at night" while Gov. Mitt Romney's people were moving out. "They had taken all the dollies," she said.
After working in the governor's office, she spent two years working with the state's Office of Refugees and Immigrants, which she called "an amazing experience." Immigration has become an issue she cares about.
In 2009, she worked on Rep. Michael Capuanos's senate campaign. "In that race, I got to know Somerville in a different kind of way," she said.
Now, Shusterman is going into her third year of law school at Boston College.
At the convention
Shusterman is the only Democratic National Convention delegate from the 7th Congressional district who's not from Boston. The list of delegates includes big political names from Boston, such as Tito Jackson, Charles Yancey and Felix Arroyo.
"We are a very diverse, very progressive district. We lead the way in the state," she said of the 7th district (which used to be the 8th before recent redistricting).
"Massachusetts is leading the way. We're one step ahead of the country," she said of the state. "The feds look to us, they really do."
As a delegate from Massachusetts, "We want to push the president to fulfill the promises he made," she said. She'd like to see Obama do more on immigration reform and she wants gay marriage to be on the Democratic platform.
"We need jobs, we need money for transportation, we need grants for startups," she said about priorities in the state.
At the convention, Shusterman also plans to have some fun. She'll "totally" wear a funny hat, she said, and "I expect to dress in some serious red and blue sequins."
Somewhat new to Somerville
Shusterman moved to Somerville about a year ago because her fiance lives here, she said. Her fiance, Carl Nilsson, is director of Obama for America in Massachusetts.
The two got engaged at Highland Kitchen, Shusterman said.
She loves walking around Somerville, going to its coffee shops and shopping for Asian food in Union Square, she said.
"I love being in Somerville, but I'm a new resident. I expect we'll be in Somerville a long time," she said.
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, we said Shusterman worked in Jarrett Barios' campaign for DA in 2006. It was actually his state senate campaign. The correction has been made above.