City Council Candidate Chat: Steven Godfrey

This is the 20th in a series of conversations with candidates for Boston City Council. Steven Godfrey, a candidate in the 4th district, is executive director of a community cultural center.

David S. Bernstein: Why are you running for city council, in that district?

Steven Godfrey: I’m a Bostonian, born and raised. Through my experience of community service and work as an administrator of non-profits for the last 20 years – on the senior management, executive level—and my commitment to civic engagement, I believe that I’m the right candidate at the right time for District Four. One, because of the diversity that I bring and that I’ve been exposed to, born and raised in the South End and then lived all over the city of Boston, I have engaged with multi-ethnic groups throughout my career, up to this point as an executive of a community development corporation on the North Shore. Two, I have managerial experience, from program management and development, the finance side of things, setting clear goals and objectives, accomplishing tasks, and direct services. And three, I believe in open communications and transparency.

As you campaign and talk to people in the district, what issues do you hear bubbling up? Are they more immediate concerns, or more long-term goals for a new mayor and city council?

I’m driven by community voice, because I’m driven by that level of process and engagement. One of the major issues is the comparison of District 4 to other parts of our city, and looking at basic city services. There is always the question of, “why aren’t we receiving this; why isn’t this enhancing our quality of life, in comparison with other neighborhoods?” One thing I always say is are you utilizing all your resources, one being your city councilor, and making sure you hold he or she up to that level of responsibility. That delivery of basic city services is really an issue for folks within District 4. Second—

—You seem to be suggesting, if I can cut in there, that part of the reason the district is not getting the same resources or attention from the city can be traced to the incumbent Charles Yancey. Is that what you’re saying?

Well, I mean I think that it may—yes. When I’m talking to folks all I can use is my own experience. I also chair and organize a neighborhood association for the last 15 years in Roslindale. We have a healthy relationship with the business community, my residents—who represent about 160 homeowners—and we have all of our elected officials. My current District 5 councilor, Rob Consalvo, his office has always been at the table. It’s an organic relationship, from the understanding that it’s a community. So if something doesn’t happen in regard to a city service, we can hold our city councilor accountable. If it’s a state issue we have had [state representative] Russell Holmes and others over time. So when I hear people in District 4 for whom that becomes one of their issues, I’m assuming that people understand that some of their services that they may lack may relate to their lack of representation from their city councilor.

Before I got us off on that tangent, you were about to say what other issues you’re hearing about.

As you can imagine, District 4 has some public safety items, with respect to the gun violence happening. Public safety has always been a big issue. People understand based on my work with my local police station, E-18, and working as advisory to my captain as part of a district-wide crime watch, people know that I’ve done that sort of work. So some folks over on Stanton Street in Dorchester, and the church and a couple of residents from surrounding streets, asked if we could come and introduce who we are, and give them of the recipes of success in creating a coalition that builds relationship among people. Getting the police district, Crime Watch, the Mayor’s office, and others together to work in a way that is not reactionary, but is pro-active. When something does happen, it’s an organic process where you’re calling up your friend, your neighbor, the person who works in one of the departments you need the help from, to come to some form of resolution. It’s not just the police department responding, it’s the community that’s responding. Housing, economic development, and education have also been really key. Education, like in all communities, is really important. The incumbent is advocating for a high school, and has been for years based on a blue-ribbon report that came out 10-15 years ago. That might have been good way back then, but now what people want to do is increase the capacity of our current schools.

A lot of your work and activism over the years has been outside of the district you’re running in: Teen Empowerment work in Roxbury; Elm Hill is not in the district; you’ve been living in Roslindale in what was a different district; and your day job is in Lynn. Why shouldn’t voters say, we want a city councilor who has done more in the district?

That would be a great criticism, if I wasn’t a Bostonian. Some of it is based on work; I didn’t share with you all the boards and other things I serve on, as a product of me serving, which has nothing to do with my jobs. I’m always making sure that if I’m representing the low-income folks of color, that there is access and a voice that represents that interest. That is done by making sure the information is brought out and shared with the public, the folks that you intend to serve. I sit and have sat on various community centers. The residents and folks who know that I serve on that, when there is an issue of advocacy, I help them navigate through the process. I lived in Dorchester, on Intervale Street. I’ve lived on Warren Street. I’ve lived in all parts of Boston. And in my various positions in terms of work or advocacy have been in areas of greater need: Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. There will be critics who say they’ve never seen me at certain tables. But nobody can say I wasn’t engaged. I live service, that’s who I am. I have family members – my father used to live in Mattapan.

I don’t really know much about your family life, but I have seen I believe photos of one daughter—is it one daughter? Two daughters?

Oh, my wife would love you. One is my daughter Mila, and the other is my wife, who is a doctor of education.

And what can you tell me about them?

Me and my wife have been together about 15 years. My wife’s from Lynn. We were in the same spirit of community service. And we have worked our butt off to raise a daughter, who also believes in service, who is out there with us knocking on doors. We are blessed to be in the positions that we are, in terms of our livelihood, and we want to make sure we acknowledge that it is because other people before us gave us that opportunity. My wife comes from a two-parent household. She migrated at the age of eight from the Dominican Republic, and grew up in Lynn. I on the other hand, at a certain point after living with my mom, became semi-homeless. We were poor, and my mom got to a point where she couldn’t take care of me. I left, and ended up in a crisis shelter, went in and out of foster homes, and have an informal adopted mother, who raised me through my teenage years.


Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.