By Dan Murphy
When she assumed the role of City Councilor Josh Zakim’s neighborhood liaison in July, Kate Bell admits her previous exposure to Beacon Hill and the Back Bay was primarily as a tourist, but she quickly felt at home in his district, which also includes Fenway, Kenmore Square, Mission Hill, Audubon Circle and the West End.
“It’s a beautiful part of the city from a purely aesthetic level,” Bell said “And the residents care not only about their district and neighborhoods, but also about the city as a whole.”
The daughter of two active-duty Air Force officers, Bell was born in Michigan but moved nine or 10 times by her estimation before graduating from high school in Belgium. She received an appointment to the Air Force Academy afterwards, but sustained a serious knee injury during basic training that curtailed her military career.
Unsure of her next move, Bell was courted by the all-women’s Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and upon visiting the school, she was encouraged to enroll upon encountering “so many female leaders in one place.”
“Growing up around the military, I was accustomed to seeing men in over 80 percent of all leadership roles,” Bell said. “It was a pretty stark difference between the two environments.”
As a college student, she also made her first foray into politics interning for Elizabeth Warren at the senator’s Springfield district office.
Bell graduated from Mt. Holyoke College with a double-major in politics and economics in 2015 before joining her family in the Myrtle Beach area. Between job-hunting and volunteering at a local soup kitchen that fed around 500 people each day, she also volunteered for Hilary Clinton’s campaign.
“As crazy as it seems, working for a Democratic presidential candidate in South Carolina was actually smooth sailing,” Bell said. “The few Democrats there are pro-Clinton, and all networks throughout the community were already in place when I got there.”
Having gained experience in campaigning and constituent services, Bell wanted to learn more about the policy side of politics, which compelled her to accept an internship with Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz in January. “Being at the State House during one of the busiest legislative seasons was the perfect time to get that experience,” Bell said.
Bell was on hand when Chang-Diaz introduced the RISE Act, which aimed to expand access and accountability for charter schools across the state, as well as the transgender-rights bill that was signed into law in July.
“It felt electric, looking into the balcony and seeing the public,” Bell said. “They erupted the moment it was passed, and to look and see my boss who sponsored the bill and feel like I was a small part of it was very rewarding.”
Bell added, “It was inspiring to see someone work so hard on something that’s sparked so much controversy, but was ultimately the right thing to do.”
A colleague in Chang-Diaz’s office recommended Bell for her current position with Zakim.
“Working for this office is incredible,” Bell said. “The staff are all incredible people.”
Bell added, “I’m fortunate that Josh realizes how great the district he represents is, and it’s gratifying working for a councilor who is as responsive as he is.”
In her short time with his office, Zakim said Bell is already getting to know people in the district and delivering good constituent services to them.
“She had a lot of good experience in Sen. Chang-Diaz’s office, and so far, it’s been a really smooth transition, which is a credit to Kate’s hard work and people in the district being willing and excited to work with her,” Zakim said.
Bell now strives to be as responsive with constituents as her current boss.
“ I want them to leave after every interaction knowing not only that the councilor and his staff are doing everything in their power to advocate for them, but also the City of Boston as its own entity cares about its residents,” she said.