Nguyen Ready to Listen, Eager to Give Back
Former legal aid attorney, Tram Nguyen, never dreamed of getting into politics. In fact, the representative-elect for the 18th Essex District didn’t even imagine pursuing a career in law. When she was younger she initially went to school with the plans to become a pediatrician.
Although she said she was not the best pre-med student, a newfound interest in law proved to be another way Nguyen could give back. As a legal aid attorney, Nguyen represented seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, children and more. She also worked on various legislation that would impact her clients and people across the commonwealth.
“In working on legislation, I had gotten the opportunity to work with a lot of legislators at the Statehouse, whether on the Senate side or the House side,” Nguyen said. “I was stunned around 2016 when I started reaching out to my state rep and realized that he was completely unresponsive to any of my requests for meetings. I looked into it further and realized I wasn’t the only one.”
Nguyen said she reached out to Jim Lyons about issues of paid medical family leave, the bilingual education bill and more.
Like many others, she participated in the Women’s March in 2016, another event that invigorated her to become more civically and politically engaged. As a legal aid attorney, she was already doing a lot of community outreach and said she has always been accessible to her clients. The encouragement and support she got from her community showed in this year’s midterm election, when she beat the incumbent Lyons, flipping the seat in the House from Republican to Democrat. The representative-elect will represent the communities of Andover, North Andover, Boxford and Tewksbury in the new year.
At 5 years old, Nguyen immigrated to the United States from Vietnam with her parents. As a political refugee, she said she has a different perspective she wanted to bring to the district for its constituents. Nguyen was the first in her family to go to college and the first to go to law school. She first lived in Lawrence, then went through the Methuen Public School System. Nguyen has been living in Andover since 2013.
“I think that that experience of really working hard to get to where I am today really shapes my perspectives on things,” Nguyen said. “Instead of going to a big law firm or doing anything else, I decided to give back to the community by being a legal aid attorney, helping those populations, completely free of charge and really understanding the issues and understanding the clients and the needs that they have. I think that that would be very helpful in my new role.”
When Nguyen officially decided to run for state representative, she took seven-month leave of absence from her job as a legal aid attorney and recently left her job completely to be a full-time politician.
Nguyen found that she enjoyed campaigning more than most. From April through election day, she and her staff were door knocking in the district from 10 a.m. to dark daily. Although she felt she had a good shot at winning, Nguyen did not expect to win by the margin she did. Her team even had someone prepared for a recount.
“I think it really mattered to people that I was in front of their doorsteps, at their kitchen table, in their living room having these very open conversations with them,” Nguyen said. “And the truth was, I didn’t agree with some of them.”
A large part of Nguyen’s campaign was the promise to be open and accessible to all her constituents, even those whose views differ from hers. During her campaigning and previous community outreach work, she discovered what some of the major issues were on the minds of 18th Essex District residents. Gun safety, funding for public schools, women’s access to health care, and the opioid epidemic were just some of the issues brought up by constituents during her campaign.
“With the recent gas explosions in Andover and North Andover, we have to talk about infrastructure,” Nguyen said. “Whether it’s to make sure that we are keeping our entire commonwealth safe by putting back regulations to make sure that doesn’t happen again, but we also need to work with utility companies to see what other measures can be put into place to keep our communities safer.”
In Tewksbury, Nguyen looks forward to helping in the areas of infrastructure, especially along Route 38, addressing the opioid crisis and with the town’s plans for a new elementary school.
She also cares about the environment and working to make sure people have clean water. She mentioned that parts of the district, like Boxford, rely on well water.
“I look forward to constituent services because I think the most rewarding thing from my previous job is to see the impact that I’ve had on the lives of these people,” Nguyen said. “One of my clients recently came back several years later and told me that her son got into Harvard. Those are the rewarding moments.”
Since the November election, Nguyen is working with the short window she has to file bills. She will be sworn in on Jan. 2 and the deadline to file bills is Jan. 18. To compliment that, she has been focused on relationship building within the communities of the 18th Essex District.
“I think relationships are very important and that’s exactly what I’m looking to develop, whether it’s relationships with local elected officials or my colleagues, whether at the House or Senate,” she said. “I want us to be a strong delegation. We should be working together, we should be communicating, we should be supporting each other.”
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.