As Nomination Papers have become available for elected office in recent weeks, two names that will likely hit the ballot in District 7 this fall might look a little similar.
In fact, they will be identical, and that’s because Tanairi Garcia Vega announced this week she will be running for District 7 City Council, and Kelly Garcia Vega announced she will be running for re-election to District 7 School Committee – where she currently serves as the chair of the Committee.
“This is going to be a Garcia Vega sister slate for District 7,” said Kelly this week.
Kelly has been a steady contributor on the School Committee for several years now, serving as chair the last two year, but her sister Tanairi is a newcomer to the Chelsea political world – though anyone who has spent five minutes at La Colaborativa, where she is the Food Pantry Director, would certainly know exactly who she is.
Tanairi said she’s running in District 7 because she feels the pandemic has shown it’s time for new leadership there. The current councillor is Yamir Rodriguez, who has served several terms to date and hasn’t been challenged in the last two elections.
“I’ve been out and working hard to serve the public and I feel there are gaps with that in the City Council, particularly in my district,” she said. “I’ve seen zero presence. I feel like I’m already doing the work and why shouldn’t I also run for Council. I don’t have a lot of experience in politics, but working at La Colaborativa, I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of elected officials who come there. I have a lot of ideas and I know Chelsea well as I grew up here.”
Tanairi, 35, grew up in Chelsea and went to the Shurtleff School, the Williams School and graduated from Chelsea High in 2003. Later, she moved to Puerto Rico to pursue her degree, and got her Master’s Degree at the age of 33. There, she was a farmer, and owned her own coffee shop business that supported her children. However, with the Hurricane Maria that hit, and the earthquake that followed, her Aunt, Gladys Vega, urged her to move back to give the children stability.
“Everything was going well in Puerto Rico and we were doing very well there with the business, but the earthquakes freaked me out,” she said. “My kids’ education was at stake just like it had been with Hurricane Maria. I was something as a mom I just didn’t want my kids to go through. So my aunt convinced me to put my kids in St. Rose back in Chelsea and get a good year’s education and then go back. I finally agreed and we made the move in January 2020 and then, boom, we were hit with a pandemic.”
The pandemic derailed her plans, she said, but it opened a door to help others, as she quickly committed to Gladys Vega to run the growing food pantry program. Now, she directs the colossal effort and has become a staple organizers around food justice in the city. It has also forced her to focus in on making a difference in her home city of Chelsea.
“I forced me to decide that I want to make a change,” she said. “Chelsea is my crib. I want to make a better life for my children and all the other children I see every day.”
As much as advocacy, financial stability and food security issues will be a forefront of her campaign, Tanairi said she is also interested in environmental justice and green space. Going back to her time as a teen-ager, she was active in the non-profit environmental groups. She recalls her grandmother picking up cigarette butts and hypodermic syringes from the front yard so they could play under her supervision. Now, she said she wants Chelsea youth and adults to find the same kind of green space as people in Melrose or Lynnfield.
When it comes to Kelly, she said she wants to continue to work in concert with her colleagues and Supt. Almi Abeyta to improve the Chelsea Public Schools.
“As we embark on a new journey of returning to school and coming back fully, I look forward to running again and working as a team to improve our schools for our students,” she said. “The need is greater than ever now…I plan on staying in the classroom to stay grounded in the work I do to promote solutions that create equity and justice in our school system.”
She added that she is also a co-chair of the Equity Committee with CPS Diversity Director Aaron Jennings.
Both said they plan to take out Nomination Papers in the coming days, and plan to be on the ballot in the fall.