Stephanie Pollack Named MA’s First Female Secretary of Transportation
After a long career in public planning and environmental activism, Stephanie Pollack was named the Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, overseeing the state’s highways, mass transit, aeronautics, and motor vehicle registry in addition to planning and programming for the state’s transportation needs.
On her appointment, Pollack said, “Massachusetts has a unique opportunity to demonstrate how transportation investments can be used to help create jobs and prosperous communities, improve people’s quality of life and connect people throughout Massachusetts to opportunity.”
Kristina Egan, with the advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts, says Pollock is committed to the transit needs of the poor. “She also cares deeply about climate change and understands the importance of investing in public transportation and walking and biking,” Egan told WBUR. “She also understands the importance of economic development.”
Pollack said in 2012, “My interest in transit issues began at the Conservation Law Foundation. One of my first projects was evaluating the ridership loss that occurred when subway fares were raised from 50 cents to 75 cents in the early 1980s. We actually convinced the MBTA to “roll back” the fares to 60 cents to help build the ridership back up. But I’m probably the proudest of the work I did in Massachusetts and nationally to address childhood lead poisoning by fighting for new laws and regulations to protect young children from the hazards of lead paint.” In presenting her argument before lawmakers preparing to vote on the state law against lead paint, Pollack personalized the issue for them: she posted photos of children from each representative’s district who suffered from lead paint poisoning.
Her personal approach influenced her work with students of social policy. “Like a lot of people I didn’t really go to law school because I wanted to be a practicing lawyer – I saw the law as one tool that could be used to improve the world, what we Jews call tikkun olam. I always planned to work on policy issues as a lawyer. And once I had succeeded changing local, state and federal policy on different issues, I realized that I had something to teach policy students and that they could even learn enough about legal issues to be able to work for policy change without having to go to law school.”
Pollack earned both a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BS in Public Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a JD from Harvard Law School. Since 2005, she served as the Associate Director of the Kitty & Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, overseeing the Center’s research agenda as well as conducting her own research projects in the areas of transportation policy, transit-oriented development, sustainability, and equitable development.
With the public’s interest in transportation aroused by the state’s debilitating transit problems during the winter of 2015, Pollack has her work cut out for her. But as she wrote in 2012, “Forty years on, the time has come for the Commonwealth to fulfill three of the most important unkept promises: institutionalizing open and visionary planning, healing the scars still left in neighborhoods cleared for the cancelled highway projects, and completing and funding the state’s public transportation system.”
Sources: “Transit and Equity Advocate Stephanie Pollack to Lead MassDOT,” USA Streets Blog; “Newton Person of the Week: Stephanie Pollack,” Wicked Local; “Baker-Polito Administration Names Stephanie Pollack Secretary of Transportation,” MA.gov; “Gov. Baker Names Pollack To Serve As Transportation Chief,” WBUR; “Stephanie Pollack,” Northeastern University.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Stephanie Pollack Named MA’s First Female Secretary of Transportation." (Viewed on January 21, 2020) <https://qa.jwa.org/thisweek/jan/13/2015/stephanie-pollack-named-ma-s-first-female-secretary-of-transportation>.