by Keisha Bell
It is tempting to see someone in a high-esteemed position and think that her life is, or has always been, comfortable. Oftentimes, those applauding are not thinking about the context of the times upon which she was born or upon which she lives. Thus, the full acknowledgment of her accomplishment is missed because it includes many issues whispered throughout society.
Meet Yvonne M. Spicer. Spicer, born in 1962, is a politician and educator. She made history by becoming the first African-American woman to be popularly elected mayor in Massachusetts when she became the first Mayor of Framingham on January 1, 2018.
When Spicer was six years old, Shirley Chisholm visited her classroom during the year when Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the US Congress. Understandably, Chisholm’s visit left a lasting impression about the importance of leadership and public service on Spicer. That encounter encouraged Spicer to dream an even bigger dream for herself. After all, she met possibility.
Spicer’s first official job was working for McDonald’s. Prior to that, however, she made money by running errands, peeling potatoes and stocking shelves for a Brooklyn restaurant. During the summers, Spicer cleaned homes with her mother. Her father died when she was 10 years old and times were hard, but that did not deter the importance of education being valued within her household.
Spicer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial arts & technology in 1984 and a Master’s of Science degree in technology education in 1985 from the State University of New York at Oswego. Notably, Spicer is that school’s first African-American woman to graduate. In addition, in 2004 Spicer earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
In 1985, Spicer moved from New York to Massachusetts after acquiring a job with the Framingham Public Schools. Over the course of 16 years, she taught woodworking, drafting, architecture, graphic arts, and photography within its school system. As follows, Spicer is the first woman to become its Chair of Technology Education.
Spicer built an accomplished career in public education. For two years, she was the Statewide Technology and Engineering Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Education. Afterwards, for five years she was the director of Career and Technical Education in the Newton Public Schools.
In 2006, Spicer was hired as Associate Director of the Museum of Science (Boston)’s National Center for Technological Literacy. There, she rose to Vice President for Advocacy and Educational Partnerships.
In 2010, Spicer was appointed to the Massachusetts Governor’s STEM Advisory Council by then- Governor Patrick and reappointed in 2017 by its current Governor. She has served on the Framingham Human Relations Commission and the Democratic Town Committee.
In 2016, Spicer was elected to the Framingham Representative Town Meeting where she served as Vice-Chair for Precinct 6. The Town Committee changed its government format to Mayor and City Council. This change led to Spicer’s election as the city’s Mayor.
Spicer has received numerous awards and acknowledgments. Through her work, she continues to leave lasting impressions of her own for little girls and boys about the importance of leadership and public service. She is possibility.
Keisha Bell is an Attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com