Human Rights Committee’s Tina Burgos Joins Select Board Race

January 26, 2024
• The chair of the Human Rights Committee is competing in what is now a three-person contest for the Select Board.

Come April, Tina Burgos looks to be one of two residents elected to the board. The small business owner is also a member of the Needham Public Schools’ Race, Equity, Access and Leadership — or REAL — Coalition, part of the Needham Resilience Network and formerly on Needham’s Council of Economic Advisors, which advises the Select Board.

The timing felt right, she said.

“I do have a lot of experience with town matters,” Burgos said, “and after taking inventory of my different experiences, I felt like this role would be the best way for me to serve the community.”

Burgos will likely be taking on incumbent and current Vice Chair Kevin Keane and Finance Committee member Joshua Levy.

At the heart of Burgos’ campaign is diversity, equity and inclusion, the lens through which she discusses town issues and seeks solutions. With the Human Rights Committee, Burgos fields complaints of discrimination and hate crimes and advises the Select Board. She and her fellow members “really try to be advocates for citizens in town,” she said, and they collaborate with other organizations in an effort to foster more diversity and inclusion in Needham.

The committee is currently working to pilot a formal discrimination reporting process and organize a community conversation on race. Burgos said they are also planning the second annual Multicultural Festival.

Her familiarity with local politics, as well as her own identity, would benefit the Select Board, she said.

“From my own personal experience, I do think that I would bring a unique voice as a woman of color,” Burgos said. “I am a firm believer that representation matters because it builds stronger community… Maybe some minority groups feel like, ‘Well, I don’t see myself on this board. I don’t see myself represented in different committees. Why should I be involved or why should I care?’”

Affordable housing is also of great concern, Burgos said, and she hopes to find ways to “open up our community to those who are not as affluent.”

Burgos moved from Boston to Needham 12 years ago, attracted to its strong schools and neighborhood charm that reminded her of her upbringing in small-town Wisconsin.

A decade ago, living in Needham was financially feasible for Burgos and her family. Their 1920s colonial is close to the town center, enabling them to “walk everywhere,” Burgos said. But for the next few months, their commute looks a little different.

As they renovate their home, the family of four is renting in Wayland, not Needham, for one major reason: Burgos “could not find any rental property that was within our budget in Needham,” she said.

“Needham is not affordable right now,” she said. “I would not be able to live in Needham if I tried to buy a home now or my home now.”

It’s important for local leaders to be “forward-thinking,” making decisions with both current and future residents in mind, Burgos added.

If elected, Burgos said another key priority would be continuing to work alongside the School Committee as they advance their strategic planning, including school building renovations and possible rebuilds. Burgos’ stake in the district is also a personal one — her 15-year-old twin daughters are freshmen at Needham High School.

As the founder of a local clothing store, Covet + Lou, Burgos said her perspective as a small business owner would benefit the Select Board. The store was once located in Needham Center before moving to its current location in Newton.

“I’m very invested in the economic development of the town, and I think that we could create more vitality, particularly from the small business community,” she said, “so not only retaining folks that are there, but attracting new and diverse business.”

Managing a team means taking into account differing interests, needs and perspectives, Burgos said, and as the boss, she aims to be thoughtful, deliberate and listen to feedback. In the fashion business, one also is compelled to take risks and “be fearless,” she added. That, she feels, “would be a big asset to the Select Board,” she said.

During this election season, Burgos said she wants to show her children the importance of civic engagement and active involvement in the community. The excitement is building, Burgos said, and she looks forward to enacting tangible, meaningful change at the local level.

“Needham has given a lot to me and to my family, and I feel a responsibility to do the same for it,” Burgos said. “So I’m excited about the journey, and I hope people do support my candidacy, because I think I will bring a unique perspective to the table.”

The town election is Tuesday, April 9.

As the election cycle continues, Needham Local and The Needham Channel will provide additional coverage on the candidates and races.

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