My name is Sheila Lyons and I am officially announcing my candidacy for the Massachusetts State Senate, Cape and Islands district, 2016 election.
To be elected your State Senator is an honor and privilege that comes with great responsibility. Let me introduce myself and tell you why I am best qualified to represent you.
I grew up in the twilight of one of Boston’s best working class neighborhoods. My parents, and those of my friends, were children of the Depression. They knew first hand the anxiety of poverty and hopelessness of despair. In time, they experienced a reality; such conditions could be alleviated when we elect strong leaders who use the tools of government to work for the people and not the powerful. They taught me that when we work together, we grow strong together. My parents made sure I understood, that as a second-generation “New Deal” beneficiary, I had a responsibility to making the world a better place.
Since then, I have dedicated my life, private and public, to service. As a geriatric social worker, I worked over 20 years aiding and counseling senior citizens and their families struggling with the challenges of aging. I left work to raise my daughter and spent my free time volunteering as Girl Scout leader and school fundraiser, and on community action boards and Democratic committees on Cape Cod and elsewhere. Having spent the summers of my youth on Cape Cod, in 2003 I became a permanent resident of Wellfleet.
The Cape and Islands are jewels carved by nature. Their unique beauty and abundance of natural resources attract hundreds of thousands of people each year many, like myself, adopt Cape Cod as their home. As a year round resident, I became aware of the financial insecurity shared by many who live here. I started to see the negative impact untreated wastewater was having on this fragile ecosystem. How do we keep a special place special? How do we balance environmental protection and economic development? I had to do my part and now had time to do it.
In 2006, I entered public service. I ran for office and was elected as Wellfleet’s representative to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates. Recognizing the benefit of having a regional government on Cape Cod, I ran and was elected to the Board of County Commissioners in 2008, and was re-elected in 2012. My term will end December 2016.
I have now worked on such challenges for almost 10 years. I am proud of the accomplishments made and of my contributions to them. For example:
- I was the leading voice in focusing the County’s efforts to address the dire threat wastewater posed to our environment and tourist economy. The recently completed and EPA-approved Cape Cod Area Wide Water Quality Management Plan produced with the input of towns and private citizens across the Cape lays out a path to go forward at lower costs than were originally estimated. The costs are still too high for us to bear alone, however, and I will work tirelessly to bring us the resources we need to meet them.
- In January 2014, I convened the Regional Substance Abuse Council (RSAC) through our Department of Human Services to begin to address the opioid crisis our communities are facing. Its mission is to establish a communication infrastructure across municipalities and identify and maximize funding opportunities to prevent and treat substance abuse. Today we are providing technical and data support for strategic planning, building coalitions in every municipality and implementing a Primary Prevention Curriculum in every school district across Cape Cod. I am committed to continuing the fight against this devastating epidemic.
- As Chair of the Regional Network on Homelessness (2009-present) I worked in a collaborative and multifaceted way to address the growing problem of homelessness in our towns. We developed a network that includes state, county and local government, social service providers, housing agencies, faith-based organizations, the business community and individuals working together to address the root causes of homelessness and develop strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Working together we have made significant progress, and as your State Senator I will continue to seek out new, common sense ways to help this community.
There is still much to be done on these issues and more; we have few jobs that offer livable wages and an under stock of affordable housing. We have a nuclear power plant that needs to be decommissioned safely and the burden cannot fall on the backs of our taxpayers. We have a public education system that needs reform. We must plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change and coastal erosion. The list goes on.
Over the years, experience has reinforced the lessons of my parents. Government is the only counterweight we have to the power of self-interest. It is the platform from which “WE The People” determine how we will live as a society, how we choose to use our resources fairly and wisely, how we ensure there is justice and opportunity for all. It takes both wisdom and empathy to accomplish this mission – head and heart, if you will. I humbly believe I have these qualities and will continue to use them, in your service. As your Senator, I will be your voice on Beacon Hill. I will fight for you and your families every day of every week until we are heard and our needs are met.
We have a long primary before us. I hope you stay engaged and learn more about the candidates and the issues. I look forward to meeting you and listening to your thoughts on matters important to you. In that process I will work hard to win your support and belief in the power of WE.