by Rick Winterson
South Boston Online had the privilege of an extensive interview with State Senator Nick Collins. Nick had first assumed his State Senate seat (1st Suffolk District) last May, after it had been vacated by Linda Dorcena-Forry. Prior to that, Nick had served four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Senator Nick won a full term in the 1st Suffolk State Senate seat this autumn, and was sworn in at the beginning of the new state Senate session on January 2 by Gov. Charlie Baker. He is from South Boston, and is a family man. He and his wife Olivia (Liff), a family-care physician, welcomed their daughter Justine into the world last January.
His length of service as an elected official is approaching a full decade, during which he has become known for several successes, including a well-deserved reputation for being “hard-working”. This week, he conducted South Boston Online on a tour of the newly restored Massachusetts Senate Chamber in the State House atop Beacon Hill. This restoration is the first such project in the Senate Chamber since the Senate began occupying this space in 1898 – 120 years ago. More than a century of continuous use by the Senate, along with periodic maintenance needs, took its toll, so restoring the Senate space became increasingly necessary. This began in 2010. As the booklet “Inside the Dome” states, “ … the Senate Chamber is now newly renovated, to meet 21st Century needs, faithful to its architectural history, … “
You might be interested to know that – in addition to Sen. Collins – several people from South Boston are (or have been) closely involved with the State House. There’s a striking photographic portrait of South Boston’s long-time Senator William Bulger in the Senate meeting room to one side of the Chamber. Bulger served as the President of the Senate from 1978 until 1996 – a record of 18 years that earned him the soubriquet of “Mr. President”.
South Boston’s Paul Dooley is the Sergeant-at-Arms of the State Senate. He escorted us around, and provided a wealth of information about the restored Senate Chamber. He told us that the marble busts of several historic figures, including Washington and France’s Marquis de Lafayette, will soon be joined by likenesses of Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglass. Michael Hurley joined us in the Senate Chamber. He is also from South Boston and was sworn in last week as both the Clerk of the Senate and its Parliamentarian, after being nominated for these positions by Senator Collins. To complete the circle, they are both family men as well – Michael and Paul have seven and five children, respectively. We were also introduced to the Senator’s office staff in Room 409 – Ceferina Murrell, Marlee Benjamin, Leo Stella, and Maureen Kilcommons.
During our visit to the State House, we informally discussed several issues affecting South Boston with Senator Nick. Among these was South Boston’s transport situation that ranged from the local MBTA bus service to the impact of a few thousand more auto trips per day from the proposed Edison Plant redevelopment by Redgate/Hilco. More concentrated use of First Street as a basic bus route has potential, as does filling empty bus seats on return routes. Collins reported that dredging of the Harbor is now underway, so that within a few years, the Conley Terminal can accept the (much) larger super-Panamax container ships, which can now navigate the expanded Panama Canal. Many of the issues in the City and in Boston Harbor could be resolved with public/private partnerships – Boston is one of the most densely settled cities in America. New York’s work on their Hudson Yards may show us what to do here in Boston. Effective, cooperative use of space is essential.
Each of these issues facing South Boston is worth a separate article of its own, so we will close this by thanking Senator Collins, and the staff at the State House, for an extremely interesting tour.