CEOC Celebrates Elaine O’Reilly’s Contributions to Cambridge
Congratulations to board member Elaine O’Reilly, who retired in March after a distinguished career that included 32 years as a partner and lobbyist with the company she co-founded, Governmental Strategies, Inc. We wanted to recognize Elaine’s many contributions to CEOC and the Cambridge community over the past four decades with this brief profile.
How did you first get involved with CEOC?
When we first moved to Cambridge in 1981, rent control still existed and was under attack. My initial interaction with CEOC (and as a new homeowner) was to support the continuance of rent control. In addition, I was connected to CEOC’s Family Planning Services at that time through my position as Director of Advocacy at the Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and Parenting. I worked a bit with CEOC in support of the establishment of a teen health clinic at CRLS. I also represented the MA Family Planning Association on reproductive health care issues, where CEOC was a member for decades.
Later, in my role as a partner and lobbyist with Governmental Strategies, Inc., I had the privilege of representing CEOC and working with CEOC staff, board, and committee members on affordable housing issues, most particularly on Expiring Use housing protections.
What’s your favorite thing about volunteering with CEOC?
Becoming a board member of CEOC allowed me to continue to engage in a range of issues impacting the Cambridge community and to work with others at CEOC to strengthen its organizational and financial standing. Supporting the staff and other volunteers in my current capacity as chair of the Development Committee is a particularly satisfying role.
How long have you lived in Cambridge? How have you seen the city change in that time?
My husband and I have lived in Cambridge for 42 years. We first lived in the “Port” neighborhood, called Area 4 then. We were active in our neighborhood from the beginning and were founding members of the Area 4 Coalition. We worked to preserve and increase affordable housing, expand youth services, and increase safety in our neighborhood.
We moved to West Cambridge in 1994 to accommodate our growing family. Our two daughters attended Cambridge’s public schools, graduating from CRLS. Once again we became involved in a community effort—this time to establish a state of the art West Cambridge Youth Center.
I also served on the Cambridge Women’s Commission in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Over these decades, Cambridge experienced dramatic changes—the development of Kendall Square, birth and expansion of the high-tech and life sciences industry in our city, elimination of rent control and its profound impact on families and the composition of our community . . . who can stay and who was forced to leave and ultimately the ever-widening wealth gap in our City. And now, Cambridge has become a City of townies and long-time residents and activists, relative newcomers, and new arrivals from hugely diverse backgrounds and means. The impact that the universities have on our City should never be underestimated.
Tell us a little more about your background.
I was born and raised in the housing projects of South Boston, the first and only member of my family to attend and graduate from college—alum of Mass Bay Community College and UMASS Amherst. Started working in high school and continued working at least 20 hours a week during college to support myself as I pursued my degree, a BS in public health, with a specialty in community organizing.
I worked in a variety of advocacy and public policy positions throughout my career, ultimately founding Governmental Strategies, Inc. with three other women over 32 years ago. As a lobbyist and consultant over these years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to work on issues of social justice and equity of access to a range of services particularly for low-income individuals in our state, including reproductive health care; early education; teen empowerment; access to civil legal services; expiring use housing protections; hospice and palliative care with a focus on pediatric palliative care; racial and gender equity and leadership development for girls and young women; and health care coverage and overall consumer access and protections are hallmarks of the issue areas of my lobbying career and successes.
Any plans yet for retirement?
I’m happy to have more time now to offer as a CEOC board member with a focus on development issues given my position as chair of the Development Committee. I intend to remain a member of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee and the Ward 9 Democratic Committee and continue working on political campaigns. But first I will be focusing on traveling and vacation time over the summer. We just had a glorious wedding weekend on the Cape for our youngest daughter, and our oldest daughter and her husband are expecting their first child in early November so we will become grandparents for the first time too! Both daughters live out of state, so a fair amount of travel to Arkansas and Colorado is definitely in our future.
Stay tuned for other retirement updates . . . gardening, walking, yoga, bird watching, visits to state and national parks, dance lessons, and more theater and concerts are also on the list!