Representative Frank I. Smizik
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a blue-collar Jewish family. My mother was a child when her family escaped the Ukrainian pogroms. My father's family was also from Eastern Europe, but had settled in Pittsburgh before he was born. I grew up in a neighborhood of Jews and Italians, attended public schools and was bar mitzvah in an Orthodox synagogue.
Although we were never poor, my parents worked very hard, but had very little. My father was a milkman and then a truck driver for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. My mother worked in retail sales, but her main occupation was raising my sister and me and running the household. Education was very important to my parents, and they made sure that I was able to go to college, the first person in my family. To help pay for college, I worked at several jobs, including in the steel mills.
I was in college in 1962, the year of Freedom Summer in the south. It was not lost on me that of the three young men killed by the KKK that summer, two were Jewish. Coming of age in the 1960's and 1970's was a time of experimentation and agitation, but also a time of reflection and empowerment. We believed we were making a new world, and it had to be a better place, where we truly could all live together in harmony, despite our differences. And that meant that every person--regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic class--was equal, entitled to the same rights and opportunities.
It may have been "the times" that made me decide to go to law school and then go to work for Legal Services, a publicly funded program to provide legal assistance to low-income clients. But I know it was also because of my Jewish upbringing. The Hebrew concept of "tikkun olam", or "healing the world" was engrained in my mind and in my heart as an important life goal, along with "tzedakah", literally meaning justice or righteousness, but also used to mean charity or compassion. I learned that being compassionate was just and righteous and was part of healing the world. It is, of course, the Golden Rule, loving your neighbor as yourself.
In Legal Services for 8 years in Pittsburgh, I specialized in housing for poor people - landlord-tenant law, public and subsidized housing. In my early 30's, after a trip to Europe, I realized that, although I will always love my hometown, Pittsburgh was not the center of the universe. I looked for a job in other places and was offered a job in Boston. I moved here in 1978--after the blizzard--to work for the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute as a housing lawyer and settled in Brookline, a town that had been highly recommended by friends. I have now lived in Brookline longer than I lived in Pittsburgh and I do not plan to leave. I have discovered that Brookline truly is the center of the universe!
Soon after I moved to Brookline, I married Julie Johnson, and we had two daughters, Emma and Hallie, who attended Brookline public schools (Devotion and BHS). Emma married Ian Boardman in 2011 and we now have two boys in the family, a son-in-law and a grandson, William Robert Boardman, born in 2013.
Meanwhile, I became active in the community. I ran and won a Town Meeting seat soon after I moved to Brookline, and then was asked to run for a seat on the Housing Authority Board because of my knowledge of public housing. I won that seat, serving as chair of the HA for several years. When my daughters began school, I became more involved in the schools, and eventually ran and won a seat on the School Committee, serving for 8 years.
I worked for 16 years at MLRI, and then went into private legal practice, a general civil practice, although I represented a number of special education students fighting to receive appropriate services in their public schools. I decided to leave MLRI, in part, because I had come to understand that in order to fully represent my low-income clients, I needed to be part of changing state laws, many of which were harmful to poor people. I wanted to help write the laws, in order to help the poor. I would finally have that opportunity after our long-time Representative was narrowly defeated in 1998. I decided to run for the seat and took office in January, 2001.
Education and Employment
University of Pittsburgh - BA - Political Science - 1966
Duquesne University Law School – JD - 1970
Neighborhood Legal Services, Pittsburgh, PA – Staff/Managing Attorney - 1970 - 1978
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Boston, MA - Housing Attorney – 1978 -1995
Private Law Practice, Boston, MA - 1995 - 2009
Lecturer in Law, Boston College Law School – 1990 -1992, 1998 - 2000
Brookline Town Meeting Member – 1981 - present
Brookline Housing Authority Board – 1982 - 1992
Brookline School Committee – 1992 – 2000
Brookline State Representative since 2001
Community – Local and State
Temple Sinai, Brookline - member since 1987
Brookline Democratic Town Committee – Elected Member
Brookline PAX - Board Member since 1980; Served as chair and co-chair for many years
JALSA - Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action - Board member, President since 2013
Citizens for Public Schools - Advisory Board Member - Since 2008
METCO Board of Director – 1998 – 1999
2014 Massachusetts Association of School Committees
Legislator of the Year
2014 Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunity
Certificate of Appreciation for METCO Support
2013 Clean Water Action
For fighting to protect the health of Massachusetts' residents from mercury pollution
2013 Massachusetts Department of Public Health
For committed partnership ensuring appropriate access and safe communities across our commonwealth
2011 Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light
For leadership instrumental in the development and passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act, Green Communities Act, Green Jobs Act, the Ocean Management Act and for outstanding service as the chair of the House Committee on Climate Change and the Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture.
2011 The YMORE Ally Award
Outstanding Support for youth priorities
2009 The Jennifer Lynch Committee Against Domestic Violence Certificate of appreciation in recognition of valuable contributions toward Domestic Violence prevention
2009 Environmental Action (GWSA) , Environmental League, Toxic Action Center
For passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act
2009 GBLT Youth
For ensuring safety and wellbeing of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender youth
2008 The Coalition for Buzzards Bay
For protecting the coastal waters of Buzzards Bay through passage of an Act Preventing Oil spills in Buzzards Bay
2008 The Sierra Club Outstanding Achievement Award
In recognition of his leadership on climate change, clean energy and environmental issues during the 2007-2008 session.
2008 Mass Audubon Legislative Leadership Award
For protecting our natural environment in Massachusetts
2008 Mass Nursery and Landscape Association
Environmental Leadership Award
2006 Environmental League of Massachusetts
For thoughtful leadership to protect and enact new protections against toxic chemicals
2006 Mass Association of Jewish Federations Relations Council
Legislative Achievement Award
2006 The Massachusetts Recreation and Park Association
Recognition for and advocacy on behalf of Parks and Recreation
2006 Mass PIRG
The Global Warming Hero Award
2006 Charles River Watershed Association (Rita Baron Award)
For efforts to protect the Charles River watershed
2004 The National Stonewall Democrats and Bay State Stonewall Democrats
For courageous leadership in the continued struggle for GLBT Equality and Justice
2004 The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
Heroic efforts to protect the health of the people of the Commonwealth from toxic trespass.
2001 Mass Citizens Against the Death Penalty
For his role in keeping the death penalty out of Massachusetts