Kristen Strezo is a fighter, a social justice advocate, a single mom, a former punk rock singer, a co-chair of the Somerville Commission for Women, a journalist and a proud Somerville resident. She has always been grateful for the sacrifices her family made to give her a better life and it has lead her to serve her community. Serving as a Councilor at Large in Somerville continues on Kristen’s deep commitment of service.

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Chatting with Erica Jones of Somerville Media Center

Born on the South Side of Chicago, Kristen is the descendent of factory workers. Her grandfather led his co-workers as union president of his factory. Her grandmother worked gluing eyeballs onto plastic snowmen. Kristen knew through her grandfather’s experience the importance of standing up for working families and defending just causes. If the union was on strike, money grew tight. She knew that keeping afloat meant knowing that they stood stronger together and that their community was always there for support.

Those hard-earned lessons instilled how vital it was to stand up for issues important to her. She formed a popular Chicago feminist punk band while studying community activism in college.  She graduated with honors from DePaul University in 2006 with a degree in Women’s Studies and Communications.

Kristen at Porchfest, 2018.

Grad school brought Kristen and her family to New England in 2012. Along for the journey was Kristen’s grandmother, Grace—now in her early nineties—who was living with her. “Home was wherever Grandma was. She took care of me when I was younger and needed her. It was now time for me to return that devotion,” she said of her choice to open her home to Grace.

While in grad school, Kristen interned at Harvard Magazine, gave birth to her second child and advocated as a full-time caregiver for her preschooler and her grandmother. She earned her degree from Harvard University, extension in 2015 and won Harvard’s commencement speech prize; her speech describing the unique needs of Sandwich Generation families.

Kristen viewed her move to Somerville as transformative and part of her daily inspiration. “I felt instantly at home in Somerville,” she said, “I made friends with my librarians, my neighbors, the business owners in my community. I knew Somerville is where I wanted my children to grow.” She quickly became active in local issues and applied to serve as a commissioner of the Somerville Commission for Women (SCW). She was unanimously elected SCW co-chair. During her tenure, she pushed for a better Somerville for all: examining barriers to women’s health, driving for financial stability and advocating for policy changes that benefited Somerville women and children.

At home, her family learned that finding Somerville housing that was affordable and handicap-accessible (to address her grandmother’s needs), proved near-impossible. Kristen chose to move into affordable housing to help stabilize the diverse needs of her family. This move, she said, positively changed her life and allowed her family to just be instead of chronically worrying about safety needs and affordability.

Kristen’s family

Through her experience, Kristen knows the complex needs many Somerville families face. She understands just how critical housing affordability is in Somerville. She is committed to fighting for its expansion so families can afford to raise their children in the same city they work in. She knows that Somerville residents from all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds deserve every opportunity to thrive in their community. She will continue to fight for this right. She lives in Assembly Square with her two children, her grandmother and their dog, Martha.