Garlick Declares End of Era

February 13, 2024
• State Rep. Denise Garlick announced Monday she will not seek reelection.

The Needham legislator, who began her political career as a town meeting member and Select Board member, hosted her annual Report to the Community at Powers Hall, where she shared her decision.

She will serve out the rest of her seventh term through the end of the year, and her successor will be elected in the Nov. 5 election. Monday was her 39th and final community report.

State Rep. Denise Garlick receives a standing ovation at her Report to the Community in Needham.

As she closed out her remarks, Garlick said she intends to remain actively involved and looks forward to “exploring all the candidates who might want to run.” She received a standing ovation.

Garlick represents the 13th Norfolk District, comprising Needham, Dover and part of Medfield. She was first elected in 2010 and currently chairs the Commission on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and serves as House chair of the Joint Committee on Education.

This year, Garlick said she’s reflected on the chapters of her life: growing up, raising her four children, working as a registered nurse, becoming a leader in the Massachusetts Nurses Association, joining town government and representing constituents at the State House. Her next chapter, she said, is still unwritten.

By timing her announcement now, a week before nomination papers are released, Garlick said she hopes to offer potential candidates ample time to campaign. General elections, especially presidential elections, also guarantee stronger voter turnouts, she added.

“This is the best way for me to serve my community as my final act, to ensure they have time to choose the next state representative,” she said in an interview, “and [that] as many people as possible are involved in that choice.”

Garlick’s work, however, is not over yet. During her presentation, she mapped the budgetary process, detailed state funding for the town, reviewed her legislative achievements and thanked local partners. Her office fielded hundreds of concerns around policy and flooding in 2023, she said. The theme, aptly, was “moving forward.”

Reflecting on her time in office, Garlick shared her pride in having co-authored a 2018 on substance use disorders, advanced health care and public health support and advocated for mental health. She previously co-founded and chaired Needham Coalition for Suicide Prevention, which she believes “helped to set a tone in our community that continues to this day,” she said in an interview.

The Report to the Community has allowed Garlick to connect with constituents as well as hold her accountable to them.

“I really believe in good government, and I believe that the state representative’s relationship with the people that he or she represents is of paramount importance,” Garlick said in an interview.

Select Board Chair Marianne Cooley noted Garlick’s impact in an email, expressing her gratitude for the representative’s “tremendous support and responsiveness to Town needs and to our citizens” over the last 13 years.

“We will all miss her advocacy and her willingness to listen to all voices,” Cooley wrote.

While on the Select Board, Garlick pushed for the restoration of Powers Hall, former board member Dan Matthews said during his introductory comments. It was in that very space where she made the announcement.

“During all those years, Denise has been a principled and effective advocate for the people of the town and the common good,” Matthews said.

Jessica Larochelle, co-director of public policy and government relations at the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, commended Garlick for her “extraordinary” leadership and work on substance use reform legislation and behavioral health support.

“We’re going to miss you a lot,” Larochelle said, “and just thank you for all of your service and everything you’ve done.”

The next state representative should be one that responsibly serves their district and demonstrates character and conviction, Garlick said. The legislature benefits from those with different lived experiences and varied backgrounds, she added.

“This is my opportunity to say to any candidate who wants to run: You have to answer to the people of this town,” Garlick said Monday night. “You have to go door to door and ask for that vote. You have to sit in that debate and answer their questions.”

Come next year, Garlick will turn the page on “the next chapter” of her life.

“I am very humbled, but also feel like I have contributed to our community and our Commonwealth in the time that I have served,” Garlick said in an interview, “and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead.”

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