Interview with State Rep. Steve Ultrino

Recently, the Blue and Gold has been able to catch up with Steven Ultrino, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Ultrino is the representative for the 33rd district, covering most of the City of Malden. The Blue and Gold had some questions for him, and he was happy to answer them.

So what is success to you, in your own words?

Success is a little bit of everything. It's my job, my goal is to help people. So when I can make a difference, whether it's on a small level, like helping a constituent who calls for something, or helping the larger community, and maybe passing a bill or getting some state funding for the city, when I see good things happen, that success makes me feel good. It makes me feel like what I'm doing as an elected official is making a difference and helping people's lives. 

What is your opinion on gentrification and its effects in Malden, and the wider area?

Well, you know, my family's been here since the early 1900s. My grandparents came here from Italy, during a very difficult time, to find work. And they settled in Malden. My dad is a graduate of Malden High School. Since then, Malden has changed and I've personally seen a lot of the change in our city. And I believe the change has been very good. Malden has transformed like many cities and towns in Massachusetts, whether it's more diversity from new immigrant families, or more developments and investments from changes in the economy. Our Mayor has done a wonderful job, overseeing these changes, from helping out new businesses and new residents, to including new languages and improving the MBTA. Gentrification brings a lot of change, but not all the changes are always bad. Take the MBTA for example, back then, my mother loved it because it let her commute into Boston for work. But a lot of people did not want the trains in Malden at the time because they were afraid Malden would become a city, with strip malls and no place to live or find work. But now, Malden is accessible to all the things downtown Boston has to offer and the T is the reason many people move here, so I think it was really a blessing. But because of these benefits, costs and rent go up. You might ask, why? The answer is convenience. You have convenient transportation, good food and businesses in a vibrant city center, and good education. All the changes brought in more investment which then meant new developments, new resources for the community, new technology, new investments improving quality of life. And because of these new changes, more people want to come here. They like the convenience; they like the acceptance and inclusivity. They like the diversity and  they like the transportation. But, again, those come with increases in prices. So I don't think Malden should slow down when it comes to new development and changes, but we do have to look at the city’s planning and think: What effects will this have? How do we balance new development and keeping things affordable? How can we keep growing without excluding people?

What is one quote from a book, philosopher, or family member that resonates with you most?

It's a quote from my teacher, a mentor of mine, and I actually put the quote in my senior yearbook. I wrote, “the only good deed is the one you do and not the one you talk about.”  My history teacher at the time, who really encouraged me to be a teacher, he's one of the main reasons I went into education. You know, people think I'm a very odd politician. I don't run to the cameras. I don't need to be on the front page of the paper and things like that. Just because it's not on Facebook doesn't mean it didn't happen, but people know that I've tried to help, and that’s what matters. The other [idea] is that I learned to surround myself with good people. That's why I'm successful today, I believe. No matter what I do, where I've been, I surround myself with a great team, because I can't do it all. I surround myself with honest, hard working, and ethical people. I also try to work with people who have an opposite view.

So what are your thoughts on the current teacher uprisings across Massachusetts?

I value the teaching profession. I'm a teacher myself, and teachers need to be recognized for who they are. They need to be paid properly for the difference that they make in their students' lives. 

What are your end goals as a representative?

I don't have any end goals, because my job will never end. There will always be a need for people in the community to help each other, so my goals are to make sure that whoever needs help is helped.

What initiatives are you most proud of bringing to Malden?

One policy initiative was the CROWN Act, which is the bill outlawing hair discrimination.  I was happy to get that through the legislature. I was happy to get the transliteration of ballots for Chinese speakers passed last session. [I was] happy to support a lot of bills that came out. 

What is something a voter or the youth of Malden should know about you?

That I'm accessible. That I'm approachable, more than anything, and that's why I still teach. I teach a course at Salem State and a course at Suffolk.  The reason I keep doing it is because I want to stay in touch with what's going on with folks who are 18 to 22 years old. I want their input and I want their voices to be heard. But maybe this interview can help engage more students. 

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