Lifelong East Boston resident Gabriela ‘Gigi’ Coletta officially announced her candidacy for her former boss’s District 1 City Council seat on Monday. Coletta, who served as District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edward’s Chief of Staff for three and a half years, will join a growing field of candidates for the district council seat that includes her home neighborhood of Eastie as well as the North End and Charlestown. Edwards recently won the state primary for the First Suffolk & Middlesex senate seat and will soon head from City Hall to Beacon Hill.
A special election for Edward’s vacant seat will most likely take place in the spring. Coletta, who left Edward’s office over the summer to become the External Relations Manager at the New England Aquarium, has been leading efforts to ensure the downtown waterfront remains resilient, inclusive, and accessible for all Bostonians by expanding access to the Aquarium and its home on Central Wharf for BIPOC and non-English speaking individuals and families. “District One faces unique challenges and this moment requires an experienced leader to tackle our most urgent issues,” said Coletta Monday.
“We are dealing with a housing affordability and displacement crisis, inequities in our public education system, and a significant threat to our waterfront communities due to sea-level rise and climate change.” Coletta said she is running because she will be a “bold” and “effective” advocate the district deserves. “I will fight for the community’s best interest and protect the vitality of our neighborhoods from day one,” she said.
“I will hit the ground running to best represent a broad coalition of residents and utilize my experience to push for bold policy solutions while prioritizing constituent services to improve the quality of life for all residents.” Coletta said she intends to utilize her lived experience as a public servant, lifelong East Bostonian, and renter as anchors for her campaign. “Over the last decade, I’ve seen my neighborhood become developed with units that many individuals in this district can’t afford. As a renter in this community, I was rent-burdened up until last year when I moved into an apartment with my partner, Sebastian,” said Coletta.
“The real estate market is increasingly out of reach for many who would like to plant their roots and grow in this district and is displacing many of our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet.Homeownership feels so far away to me and so many people in all three communities and across Boston. Whether your family has lived here for four generations like mine, or you just arrived four days ago, you should have access to affordable options for both homeownership and rental opportunities.”
Coletta said she intends to also focus on her campaign on creating and maintaining equitable access to an excellent education for all children across the district, prioritizing excellent city services by reforming Boston’s 311 for better transparency and accountability, and pushing the City of Boston for greater investments in coastline resiliency to protect the district from the dangers of flooding due to climate change. Ahead of her announcement Coletta has been garnering broad support from voters in Eastie, the North End and Charlestown.
“While in her previous capacity in City Hall, Gabriela has shown an understanding of the importance of immigrant families not just in Boston but in the nation,” said Eastie resident Ana Alonzo, a National Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Alliance organizer. “She has supported immigrant families in their fight for justice and has helped uplift the stories of immigrants that have made Boston and enriched its communities.” Coleatta comes from a well known family of activists, volunteers and community leaders. Coletta’s father, Ed, was the editor of the former East Boston Sun Transcript in the 1990s before heading to work at the Mass. Department of Environment Protection. For years Ed has been involved in the East Boston Kiwanis Club where he touched the lives of countless families through volunteerism and community service. Coletta’s mother, Nina, is the director of East Boston High School’s Family Outreach Center where she’s worked as an advocate for parents and students for a long time.
Coletta said she grew up attending civic association meetings, neighborhood events, and even multiple protests against airport runway expansion with her mom back in the early 2000s. This upbringing helped shape Coletta’s decision to dedicate her entire life working in service to others and giving back to what she calls, “a beautiful and diverse neighborhood that has given her so much”, Prior to becoming Edward’s Chief of Staff, Coletta led Edward’s successful and historic campaign in 2017 as campaign manager. As Campaign Manager Coletta activated and mobilized a grassroots campaign consisting of a broad coalition of residents, unions, volunteers, and advocacy groups numbering over 500 people – all of whom felt disenfranchised by the political establishment. In the end Coletta’s work helped elect Edwards as the first African-American woman to represent District 1.
After the election Coletta was appointed by Edwards as her Chief of Staff. There she centered and amplified the lived experiences of those systemically overlooked in every policy discussion, constituent case, and civic engagement initiative. She spent the entirety of her tenure in the neighborhoods of Eastie, the North End and Charlestown, understanding constituents’ concerns to build bridges between differing populations. “This enabled me to help ensure resources were available and policies were appropriately crafted to solve some of the hardest, long-term problems residents faced,” said Coletta. “I’d like to think I exemplified collaborative leadership when tackling some of our district’s biggest challenges like housing affordability and development, inequities in our public education system, and the impacts of climate change on our coastlines.” Prior to Edward’s 2017 victory, Coletta was Rep. Adrian Madaro’s Community Liaison where she sat shoulder-to-shoulder with community members for years listening and learning about their priorities.
She served as Madaro field director during his successful and contentious 2015 special election campaign. Coletta was elected as the Democratic State Committeewoman for the 1st Suffolk and Middlesex district in 2016 and to the Ward 1 Democratic Committee in 2020. She was also the Associate Director of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC), where she furthered MWPC’s mission to recruit, elect, and train women to run for office across Massachusetts while creating strategies to elect endorsed candidates for its Political Action Committee.
She has become a frequent guest trainer for Emerge Massachusetts, where she advises women seeking to run for office or manage campaigns for female candidates. Coletta said she is a “proud” product of five Boston Public Schools and graduated from Boston Latin Academy. She received a degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Boston as well as a minor in Human Rights. She currently lives in East Boston with her partner, Sebastian Zapata, and in her spare time loves to cook dishes that honor her Italian and Mexican heritage. For more information on her campaign visit Facebook at @GigiforDistrictOne, and Twitter @Gigi4District1.