Thursday, July 18, 2024

Somerville councilor at-large Charlotte Kelly. (Photo:

Somerville city councilor at-large Charlotte Kelly said Tuesday she won’t run for reelection, choosing the work of organizing from the street over a seat of official political power.

“I will continue to work alongside my neighbors to build a Somerville that works for all of us. As always, we need organizers and advocates outside of City Hall who will be relentless in their pursuit of justice,” Kelly said in a press release posted online 21 days before the election.

But in the past two-year term of juggling the council and working full time as an organizer, she said she had become “acutely aware of the amount of time, energy and labor it takes to effect the changes I set out to accomplish, particularly under the current structures of the City Council and city government. With all this in mind, I have decided I cannot serve a second term.”

City councilors earn a little over $40,000 annually, with the council president earning more.

One fewer race on ballot

Despite the jolt of the decision, Kelly pulling out makes a sleepy election year somehow even sleepier: With four at-large seats on the 11-member council and all incumbents filing to return, former city councilor at-large and mayoral candidate Will Mbah had to unseat either Kelly, Willie Burnley Jr., Kristen Strezo or Jake Wilson to get on.

Now he will likely just inherit Kelly’s chair, though mail-in ballots bearing Kelly’s name as a candidate have already gone out to voters, and some have been returned.

There are races: Ward 5’s council seat is contested between two newcomers, while incumbents in Wards 1, 3 and 6 also face challenges to be decided Nov. 7.

On the School Committee side, there are seven seats, all unopposed; six will be filled by incumbents. Mayor Katjana Ballantyne faces opposition only from William “Billy” Tauro, a Trump-supporting business owner and publisher of the Somerville/Medford News Weekly who has polled poorly in the past.

She’ll see constituents “in the streets”

Kelly arrived in the 2021 campaign season as “a queer, fourth-generation Somerville renter and community organizer” politically active as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Kelly also had advocacy experience in the Massachusetts State House with the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy and electoral work as field director for state Sen. Pat Jehlen’s 2016 campaign, according to campaign materials. Among the seven at-large candidates, Kelly took the third-most votes after Strezo and Burnley.

While her work on the council over the past two years has “helped move millions of dollars into essential public goods and ensured greater transparency and oversight,” Kelly said, she had a long list of things that the “city is not moving fast enough” on, including a rethinking of public safety, a housing crisis and a “lack of investment in public services and crumbling infrastructure.”

“It is clear that Somerville has existential questions ahead” to build a better world, Kelly said, vowing to see constituents “in the streets because our neighbors are counting on us to fight.”

This post may be updated.