CRLS Alum Elected Mayor

Sumbul Siddiqui First Muslim Mayor in MA

Zoe Fritz-Sherman, Metro Editor

On Monday, January 6th, 31-year-old CRLS alum Sumbul Siddiqui had just started her second term as a Cambridge City Council member when she was unanimously elected to be mayor by her colleagues and became the first Muslim to take the office in Massachusetts. 

“As a lifelong Cambridge resident and someone who’s attended the Cambridge Public Schools—Longfellow School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin—I am so fortunate to be now the mayor of the city I grew up in,” Siddiqui reflected in an interview after the inauguration. “I can’t wait to work with my fellow council members on making sure that our most vulnerable residents have what they need.”

Another second-term councilor, Alanna Mallon, was unanimously elected vice mayor, a surprising show of council unity in a city where committee members are frequently divided. 

“It was an incredible show of support today. It was—I think—the first time that both the mayor and vice mayor have been elected unanimously,” Mallon commented in an interview with the Register Forum. “I think Sumbul and I have a similar agenda, and I look forward to working with her.” 

Mallon and Siddiqui have collaborated together in the past on the council during their last term, and on co-hosting of their two-year-old “Women Are Here” podcast that addresses often controversial issues such as cannabis equality, the dangers of white feminism, the affordable housing overlay, and Emily Dexter’s use of the n-word. “It’s 2020, and it’s the centennial of ratifying the 19th amendment which allowed some women to vote,” Mallon added. “I think it’s important that we have two women in elected representation here in Cambridge during this really momentous year, and I look forward to planning some of those efforts and celebrations around that as well.”

In Cambridge, the mayor isn’t elected by voters, but by their own colleagues on the City Council. Through the usage of the proportional representation system where Cambridge residents rank their choices for City Council members, nine councilors are voted in for a two-year term. After taking the oath of office, the Council elects one councilor to be mayor and another to be vice mayor. At the moment, the Council consists of  Dennis J. Carlone, Patricia M. Nolan, Marc C. McGovern, Quinton Y. Zondervan, Timothy J. Toomey Jr., E. Denise Simmons, and Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler. There will be another election in two years.

While for many the election of Mallon and Siddiqui felt like the turning of a new leaf, former mayor E. Denise Simmons would like to leave Cantabrigians with a reminder that the necessary work to improve the city is far from over. “Ms. Siddiqui is taking an honorable place in the spectrum of the women mayors that have preceded her, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that we elected our first woman. While we are extraordinarily progressive, we are also very slow,” Simmons said during the post-inauguration reception. “I don’t want to diminish the fact of the extraordinary work that Ms. Mallon and Ms. Siddiqui are doing or will do, but I want to remind us that while we rejoice in this moment, let us be mindful of how long it took us to get here.”

In their previous terms and campaigns, both Mallon and Siddiqui focused on issues surrounding affordable housing, small businesses, food insecurity, and racial inequality in Cambridge. “As mayor, I’m committed to leading this council as we look ahead to a new decade,” Siddiqui concluded in her inauguration speech. “We will rise to meet the challenges facing our community… every day I see members of this community noticing each other in need and helping each other. Service is second nature in Cambridge. It is one of our greatest strengths.”

This piece also appears in our January 2020 print edition.