By Cathleen Twardzik
Tom Champion, Executive Director of Communications and Cable for the City of Somerville, will be resigning. That will become effective on February 28, 2013.
Champion has been in the role of Executive Director of Communications and Cable from December 2005 to January of 2010, and upon Mayor Curtatone’s request, he assumed that role again in November 2011.
Champion chose to fill that capacity because, “Mayor Curtatone approached me on both occasions, and I was honored to take on the role each time. Before joining the Curtatone Administration, I had already worked for over twenty-five years in strategic communications and general management in the public, private and academic sectors, including more than 12 years at Massport and four years in the president’s office at MIT. Getting back into government was something I was happy to do.”
Along with his family in 1999, Champion moved to Somerville. Then, in 2003, Champion was introduced to Curtatone during his mayoral campaign.
“One of my Prospect Hill neighbors, the late and much-missed Joe Thompson, knocked on my door and said, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy. He’s going to be the next mayor.’”
“I liked Joe and what he stood for and ended up volunteering for the campaign. Two years later, when he was looking for a new communications director, he remembered my professional background and gave me a call,” he said.
Champion is resigning because, “It was a thrill to come back to being part of the mayor’s team in 2011, but I need to explore my career horizons before I’m too old to take on new challenges and new opportunities. This city has accomplished so much over the past year under Joe’s leadership that this seemed like a good time to make a transition on a very high note.”
In the near future, Mayor Curtatone will decide which individual will become the Executive Director of Communications and Cable, as well as the date at which he or she will start.
Some of the most important issues with which Champion has dealt as Executive Director of Communications and Cable prove diverse.
“When Joe campaigned in 2003, he said he was going to break the development logjam at Assembly Square. This past spring, construction finally began on the first big piece of the most important smart growth, transit-oriented, mixed-use development on the eastern seaboard. Getting to that historic moment has required a tremendous amount of complex advocacy, negotiating, legal and financial work, planning and coordination,” said Champion.
Another issue with which Champion was involved in that role included the Green Line Extension. Curtatone was at the forefront of the fight to ensure that the Green Line Extension became a reality. “It’s an extraordinary achievement – and one in which I felt fortunate to play a small supporting role.”
Simultaneously, Champion has enjoyed supporting the mayor’s efforts to strengthen accountability, efficiency and transparency in government via 311 and SomerStat. Those programs, as well as Shape Up Somerville, have earned the city a “national reputation” for best practices and innovation.
“When you’re in communications, all you can hope for is that you get a good story to tell. Fortunately, this administration and this city are full of truly great stories.”
Champion considers the best part of the position to be, “When Somerville acquired a mass notification system in the spring of 2006, I was lucky enough to get the assignment to make phone announcements on behalf of the city. People were amused to get snow emergency calls from someone named Champion, and I think many residents who had never met me started to feel as if they knew me. People would stop me in the street to talk, or call to ask questions about government.”
While he was growing up, Champion’s family moved copious times, and so he did not live in the same house for the amount of time that he’s resided in Somerville. “By the time I graduated from high school, I’d lived eight houses in five cities on both coasts and in the Midwest.”
He has encountered numerous individuals by working for the city and countless people know his name because of the robo-calls. Therefore he considers Somerville to be a “hometown,” unlike any other city, in which he has ever lived.
Champion’s professional experience has included various types of positions.
“I worked for a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C. from 1980 to 1983 and then came back to Massachusetts to work for Governor Dukakis,” he said.
He has worked the Massachusetts Port Authority on communications side, as well as the management side and as a freelance writer and consultant for companies such as Lotus Corporation and non-profits such as the Kaiser Family Foundation, and as Senior Writer in the president’s office at MIT.
Alex d’Arbeloff, Chairman of the MIT Corporation and one of the co-founders of Teradyne, asked Champion to conduct communications and marketing work for a new tech company, which he started.
Champion’s hobbies include his being able to partake in the Post Meridian Radio Players and Theatre@First, which are part of the local community theater scene. He asserts that his participation in that area has “been huge fun.”
After his resignation, what will Champion do? “I love living in Somerville, and have no special plans other than continuing to work hard and enjoy being a Somerville resident and homeowner. I’m looking forward to the day that I can ride the Green Line from Union Square to downtown Boston and can walk to the movies at the new AMC complex in Assembly Row.”
Additionally, Champion has “some exciting possibilities.” However, at present, it is too early to elaborate about them on a public level.