The repetitive beeping of the metal detectors behind me was bothersome as I sat on the round wooden bench at Cafe Recreo in Boston's City Hall. A soft but serious voice stood out and said: "Hi, Nathan?" It was Amy Mahler, director of SPARK Boston, wearing an orange polka-dot dress and tan blouse, with her hand extended waiting for a handshake. We sat at a round table overlooking Faneuil Hall. Mahler spoke with the tone of a normal conversation which put me at ease.
Amy Mahler grew up in Palm Beach County, Florida. She went to the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts as a theatre major. When she attended, it was one of the highest-performing high schools in the country. She described it as a school where everyone in her class went to college and many of them didn't have to battle with student debt because of the many opportunities the school offered. "Like when you would have late start days for your school system, you know, you would maybe go to a local Colombian bakery, to get baked goods, after you've slept in for an hour,” she said. “I'd have some classmates who would go to the beach before school started."
When she graduated, she moved to Boston to attend college. She campaigned for small city council races and Wayfair before working for former governor Deval Patrick’s 2010 re-election campaign.
Mahler is the director of SPARK Boston, a council made up of people ages 20-34 that works under the Walsh administration. She described the council as a place where people can come and make a difference in their local government.
People decide to join the council for a lot of different reasons. "You might come from a place where a global government didn't work for you and your family for a variety of reasons, you might come from a place where you don't trust local government you have you might come from a place where local government is much more accessible," she explained.
Mahler is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and proudly presents that. I asked whether it affected her work to which she responded, "Oh, totally. In a positive way. I think one, you know, it's made it easier for me to spot the other in the room. I'm a young white woman, not from Boston. That means that there are some ways that I can see other things, and I think it's, you know, [similar] in some ways, being an LGBT person."
At one point during my visit, she interrupted herself to introduce me to the City Hall Chief of Staff. She introduced me and made sure that if I needed to contact him, I could. I feel like she didn’t have to do this but she did to make sure I gained contacts.
In an article by the Boston Sun, Mahler mentions often running into the same faces at meetings, and it becoming quite dull. I asked her if she fears that young adults on the council will fall into the cycle of seeing the same faces over and over again much as she did. She said that it very well could be a problem, but it is unlikely because Generation Z and Millenials are very equity-based and tend to always bring others along with them to keep refreshing these cycles.
Mahler currently has no plans to move on from SPARK Boston. She said that if a door opens with the perfect opportunity, then she will gladly take it, but for now, she is grateful for her job and the people that she gets to meet regularly. She has a couple of people in mind who might be her successor.