Women Leaders of the Merrimack Valley Seek to Innovate and Transform
There are many leaders throughout the Merrimack Valley, including five exceptional women we’ll highlight during the coming weeks. They are leaders in their industries, respected by colleagues and the public, and at the forefront of changing the landscape for women in their fields.
State Representative, 18th Essex District
Tram Nguyen’s dream job, she thought, was to be a legal services attorney and help low-income clients and people who couldn’t advocate for themselves.
Nguyen was born in Vietnam and moved to America when she was 5. She and her family lived in Lawrence and Methuen, and she graduated from Methuen High School before becoming a first-generation college student at Tufts University. She earned a degree in sociology and American studies, and later obtained her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.
As an attorney, she worked with victims of domestic violence and practiced immigration law, focusing heavily on Vietnamese immigrants. She helped spearhead the Nail Salon Initiative to help lower income workers fight wage theft.
Nguyen says she often struggled to get in touch with lawmakers on Beacon Hill as she campaigned for the passage of policy changes. She ultimately decided to run for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
“Our district can’t be represented by someone who doesn’t listen to constituents,” she says.
Nguyen, who lives in Andover with her husband and dogs, campaigned on a platform that included more funding for public education, preserving the environment, prioritizing equality and inclusion for gender identity, preventing gun violence, addressing the opioid epidemic, and fighting for women’s health.
Nguyen’s constituents in Andover, Boxford, North Andover and Tewksbury can always expect to get a response from her, she says, whether she agrees with their point of view or not.
“You will know where I stand, and you’ll know why,” Nguyen says.
The freshman lawmaker serves on the Joint Committee on Housing, Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, and the House Committee on Personnel and Administration.
A strong part of her base has been younger voters and Nguyen spent much time before the pandemic visiting local schools in an effort to explain state government and promote civic engagement.
She also encourages women to pursue government work. Government needs all perspectives from all residents, she says, and it should be affordable for all to run for a position.
Like all of us over the last six months, Nguyen has adjusted to a virtual workday. She has adapted to an off-site lifestyle, working remotely and participating in a virtual legislative session by voting from home. The State House remains closed to the public, and legislators are encouraged to work remotely if possible. Nguyen says she sometimes remains in a virtual session from 10 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., or even midnight as lawmakers tackle a range of bills.
She’s also turning to social media more often as a way to engage constituents — holding virtual town halls, and also sending out newsletters and Facebook updates on the coronavirus crisis and legislative matters. With so much uncertainty, the number of calls to her office for help is rising, she adds.
When the most recent legislative session ended in July, Nguyen turned her attention to her campaign for reelection. With social distancing in mind, she began the process of obtaining signatures to get her name on the primary ballot for September. Additionally, Nguyen is turning to phone banks, texting banks, mailers and social media to reach voters.
With widespread mail-in voting this year, Nguyen says the focus isn’t only on getting people to the polls on Election Day, but also on making sure voters meet all the early deadlines for mail-in ballots.
“We’re gearing up to go full speed,” she says.
When she’s not on Beacon Hill, you’re likely to find Nguyen attending public events, meetings, or social gatherings in her district. She also finds creative ways to keep her constituents informed, often posting updates on state happenings on Facebook, mixed in with snippets and peeks into her personal life. An avid cook, she’s known for posting photos of her nightly meals.
“I’m very open with my life,” she says.
Sunday dinner with her family is also an important tradition for Nguyen, and she makes sure to keep that time open on her calendar, noting, “Nothing is more important than family.”
Nguyen is one of five exceptional women featured in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine. Click here for more info. >>>
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