BOSTON – The newly-elected mayor of Somerville, a town adjacent to Boston and Cambridge, Katjana Ballantyne, was born in Greece and immigrated to the United States at the age of four. Perhaps her name doesn’t sound Greek, but her blood, values, and origins are definitely Greek. She revealed it herself during her recent inaugural ceremony which took place virtually due to the fact that the COVID-19 continues to attack people of all ages.
In her moving inaugural speech, she said. “I am humbled and honored to have won the vote of so many of you. And I want every Somervillian to know, no matter how you voted or if you didn’t vote, I will be listening to you and fighting for you too. At the end of the day, we all love Somerville and want what’s best for our community. Together we can get there. But tonight, instead of gathering in the new high school, we find ourselves battling yet another new surge of COVID-19.”
The new mayor continued, “these are unprecedented times. We are living through a global pandemic. There is fear and uncertainty. However, I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic because in Somerville, we have this amazing resource and that is our people, our residents, our community members. We can overcome this, not only with smart policy and investments but by working together.”
Mayor Ballantyne then said the following about her background:
“My personal experiences have also shaped who I am and how I serve. I was born and orphaned in Greece, and I was adopted there by my Scottish father, and my Czech-German mother. A family of immigrants from three different countries, we came to the United States when I was four years old.
“When I was growing up, it wasn’t hard to notice we were different. The foods we ate were different, our clothes were different, our accents were different, our culture was different.
“Even though I became a U.S. citizen when I was a teenager, I’ve been told numerous times as an adult that I’m not a real American because I wasn’t born here. So I know first-hand that some people are afraid of anyone they see as different.
My immigrant experience has taught me to value differences. Because it is the right thing to do, and has served me well, as I have served Somerville. Because the first step in delivering progress for everyone is making sure we hear every voice.
“I can tell you right now that we will remain a Welcoming City, a Sanctuary City. Somerville will remain true to its tradition of embracing newcomers. Somerville will continue to benefit from the hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurialism of our immigrant residents, our new residents, and our long-time residents.”
She also said, “I was the first and only one in my family to go to college. I worked and used student loans to earn first my bachelor’s degree and then an MBA. When I moved to the Boston area, I didn’t have much. Friends gave me a place to stay while I sought work and saved up for rent. In 1993, I moved to Somerville and discovered a place that was fast changing. It was a city embracing its differences, diversity, and progressive values. Somerville was a place where I felt welcomed and included, and I’m grateful that my husband Rick and I and our two daughters, Iliana and Sophia, have built our lives here.”
She emphasized about Somerville that, “we are a progressive city. During my eight years on the City Council, we’ve led on social, housing, and climate issues. We are a community full of activists. Our progressive values guide us every time we go to the voting booths. The challenge before us is, how do we turn progressive values into progress for all. How do we impact everyone for the better? Because too many people feel like the progress we have seen isn’t their progress. My vision for Somerville is an inclusive, equitable city where we can all thrive together, and I know that’s the vision this community shares.”