It’s a hot summer day. The sun is beating down on the sidewalk where Maria Esdale Farrell walks. She enters the gate of a house and walks up the steps to the front door.
Farrell rings the bell and waits, the air with tension, which soon fades as she comes face-to-face with a person. The resident greets her with a smile. Before she sells herself to the resident, she makes a point to remove her sunglasses and establish eye contact.
Farrell starts explaining who she is and why she is knocking on their door on one of the hottest days of the year.
The position of city councilor is one that many don’t pay much attention to. In Boston, there are nine district councilors and four At-Large councilors. As election season nears, candidates for District 5 are off to campaign. This brings me to Farrell, a lifetime resident of Hyde Park and a mother of six children. Farrell has recently sprung to the stage of local politics, aiming to become the next City Councillor of District 5, succeeding Timothy McCarthy, the current councilor. Farrell’s attention-grabbing tricolor signs are all around Hyde Park and Readville, and she is spreading her message of change, development and pride into the rest of the district.
Farrell has spent most of her life working for the community. She organized youth sports groups and was a staple member of her children’s schools’ Parent Teacher Association. At PTA meetings, Farrell is a prominent voice for active parent involvement in their children’s schools. As Farrell often says, she has a “stake” in how the Boston Public Schools operate. All of her children have been, or are currently enrolled in BPS. Schools are one of the most important pillars in any city, and Farrell is very vocal about this.
Recently, Farrell officially joined McCarthy’s team as an aide. I say “officially” because Farrell has always had a heavy presence. Before she found a position with McCarthy, she was active at community meetings working to better the public school system. Even though it wasn’t her job yet, Farrell chose to take time out of her day to work for better schools for her kids, and all kids. At a fundraiser, McCarthy said that Farrell isn’t doing this for the money or the title, but that she was running this campaign because she wants to help her community, her home.
“Since I started this journey, I can say, every morning I wake up, I’ve grown exponentially in a place where I wasn’t the day before,” Farrell said.
One of Farrell’s greatest challenges is learning to self-navigate on this new terrain. Aside from her work with McCarthy, Farrell has no political experience. She said that one of her challenges was “learning how to politically and delicately handle situations because not everyone knows how to be ‘political.’”
Farrell told me about a man she approached who asked her stance on abortion. Farrell’s advisors told her to avoid such a controversial topic by informing them that a city councilor has no say in abortion rights. Farrell tried this strategy, but he wouldn’t take that response. This story has had a profound effect on Farrell, who now knows never to pull the “I have no say” card, because that’s not what people want from their councillor.
The people want someone to trust, and Farrell yearns to be that person. She reflected on the words of her mentors, telling her to avoid such questions and decided that the man was right. “He wants to know what kind of person [I am], what kind of morals, what kind of integrity I have,” she said.
Farrell asks herself, “there are eight other candidates running and I’m the only one who feels the way I do. Is that because I’m crazy?”
After McCarthy announced he would not seek reelection, Farrell took a look at the people hoping to grab the seat. Farrell decided that none of the candidates were like her. She decided that none of the candidates wanted the seat in the same way she did.
Farrell said she would feel bad if she lost, not because she lost, but because no one has the same platform as her. She doesn’t have the feeling that “if X wins, it’ll be the same as if I won.”
“I believe so strongly in what I think needs to happen.” For that reason, Farrell believes she is the best candidate for District 5.