Jonathan Hecht has been a popular guy since he announced that he would be stepping down from as State Representative for the 29th Middlesex District at the end of his term.
The Watertown resident has represented most of the Town, plus part of Cambridge, since 2009. Last week, he announced publicly his decision not to seek reelection.
“People have been very nice. I don’t know whether that means they like job I’ve done or they are glad to see me leaving,” Hecht said. “I joked to my wife never been as popular as the time I announced I was leaving.”
Hecht has been an elected official for nearly 15 years, and said he thought it was time to move on.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. It will be 12 years at the end of this term, and I had several years on the Council as well,” Hecht said. “It’s been a pretty long stretch that I’ve been in elected office. I thought it was time to do something different.”
What his future focus will be has, Hecht has not yet decided
“I don’t have anything specifically lined up,” he said. “I have 10-11 months in my current job, which keeps me plenty busy.”
He did say he plans to stay active in local issues.
There are several areas on which Hecht worked on in the State House, in which he felt he played a role in helping the residents of Watertown.
“Some of the things I’m especially happy about, as far as the Town, are establishing and maintaining funding for the mental health clinician at the Police Department, to do jail diversion work for people with mental health,” Hecht said. “Also, funding for the schools, including for special education — some of extra special special education costs Watertown routinely has.”
He also spent time trying to improve the parklands along the Charles River.
“I worked on that when was on the Council and continued in the State House,” Hecht said. “It is state land — Nonantum Road, Riverside Park and the Braille Trial, Greenough Boulevard, and the Watertown-Cam Greenway, which is nearly complete.”
Transportation was another focus, and some major changes he worked on was creating a bus priority lane on Mt. Auburn Street, and safety improvements on Fresh Pond Parkway.
Other areas still need more work, Hecht said.
“Some of the big issues on which I think we have to do much more on are transportation more broadly — I hope to take before the end of the session a bill on transportation investment,” Hecht said. “Also, climate change. There is much more we have to do.”
Housing is another huge issue, he said. “Housing affordability and housing supply are major, major problems for this area.”
Healthcare costs also present a major challenge for residents.
“We have done a lot in Massachusetts to improve access to insurance, but it isn’t always accepted,” Hecht said. “The problem with healthcare costs is very big. These are not things that you ever solve once and for all, but are things for which we haven’t done enough, for sure.”
Hecht had some advice for those seeking to succeed him. The 29th Middlesex District includes Precincts 1-9 in Watertown (all but the Westside), and all of Cambridge’s Ward 9, as well as, precinct 3 of ward 10, and precinct 2 of ward 11 (which includes West Cambridge and part of North Cambridge).
“Locally, stay involved. Stay available. Stay visible,” Hecht said. “In an era where there is a lot of distrust in government, I think it is important in lower levels of government, that elected officials are available and responsive so people feel they have somebody that is paying attention to their issues. This is a very active district. People are very engaged. It is easy to keep those sorts of relationships going, but people have high expectations.”
There are some aspects about how things work at the State House that Hecht would like to see change.
“Working at the State House, it is a complicated place,” Hecht said. “I think it needs to be more transparent, more accessible to all elected officials. I think it is sometimes too clubby. I think we need to do more to open up and make it more representative of the range of people we have in the state.”
Hecht said the timing of his announcement was intentional. It came the week that candidates for state office could take out papers to run for office. When he was first elected to the Massachusetts House, Hecht took part in a race in which all the candidates had to run in write-ins. This unusual situation arose because former Rep. Rachel Kaprielian was appointed to be Registrar of Motor Vehicles by Gov. Deval Patrick after the deadline to for candidates to get on the ballot, Hecht recalled.
This year, the deadline to file to run for the State Representative seat is Tuesday, May 26, 2020. The preliminary election will be held Sept. 1, 2020 with the general election taking place on Nov. 3, 2020. For more information about running for office, click here: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/Candidates-Guide-generic.pdf