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Lack of ethnic diversity won't be an issue in this year's race for mayor of Boston, as half of the 12 candidates who've qualified for the ballot are people of color, including Charlotte Golar Richie. But Golar Richie, who stands out with a strong political resume, is the only woman in the race.
"I have served at the city level, the state level, have even spent some time working at the federal level in my role as senior vice president for a national nonprofit organization," Richie said.
The 54-year-old Brooklyn-born daughter of a retired New York state Supreme Court judge, Golar Richie moved to Boston with her husband in the 1980s. Their two grown daughters are products of Boston's public schools.
She served in the state legislature from 1995 to 1999, joining the leadership team and becoming a committee chair in her freshman year as a lawmaker.
"It would be so important to me to have the support of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus," Golar Richie said, outlining her credentials as she made a successful pitch for an endorsement.
She says her work on Beacon Hill caught the eye of Mayor Thomas Menino. "And he asked me to join his administration, that's why I left the Legislature. It wasn't that I was forced out, it wasn't that I lost an election or anything like that."
She was a member of Menino's cabinet for eight years, heading the Department of Neighborhood Development. That led to her next position, as senior adviser to Gov. Deval Patrick, where she met Elizabeth Cardona, director of the Patrick administration's western Massachusetts office.
"I'm still here because of Charlotte's mentoring and her coaching, that's the type of leader that she is," Golar Richie said.
The chance meeting between Cardona and Golar Richie came at an event honoring people who've been influential for Latinos in Massachusetts.
"We were in a community that was desperate for leadership, and Charlotte stepped in and gave us that," said Jesus Rosa, who chairs the board of the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce in Boston. He lives in the troubled Bowdoin-Geneva section of Dorchester.
Rosa goes way back with Golar Richie — more than two decades — to when she was community organizer. "It was either stand up and fight, or run. And we decided to fight. Business people were being killed, teenagers were being killed, and it was very easy for people to back up and say, 'Enough is enough, lets move out.' So I think it's a testament to Charlotte that all these years she's still managed to keep moving forward, and she's been a good inspiration for people in the neighborhood who've known her."
For Golar Richie, it all goes back to a stint in the Peace Corps in the early 1980s. Shortly after graduating from Rutgers University, and before getting a master's in journalism from Columbia University, she says it was life changing to do so much in Kenya.
"Teach English as a second language, help to start a library, raise money to start a water tank, and I guess what I've found is that I love working with people and I also love public service," Golar Richie said. "So that is something that I think I've carried with me throughout these experiences, and it's held me in good stead. It's been important for me to give back."
Since 2010, Golar Richie has worked for Youth Build USA, a nonprofit involved in youth and community development. "For those who look at this race and say, 'Huh, it's about time that we have a woman,' they'll be interested in me. For others who say, 'We need the best candidate,' I'm hoping they'll also be interested in me."
One of the last candidates to enter the race, Golar Richie has attracted some interest. Her supporters include a group of progressive lawmakers with ties to political power bases across the city. But she trails when it comes to campaign dollars and is far behind the top fundraisers.
Still, Golar Richie focuses her retail politics on a different currency: one-on-one contact with voters across the city.
This program aired on June 18, 2013.
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