By THOMAS SACCENTE – STAFF WRITER
In this day and age, the job market is still strained, and employers are looking for people who are not only well educated, but also acclimated to working in the modern world. They are looking for people with actual work experience and enough discipline to both handle multiple deadlines at once and work as a part of a fully functioning unit. To that end, many Centre students take it upon themselves to get as much experience before they graduate in order to acquire these skills. Senior Dennis Barrett is a prime example of this drive for experience, having served as a Field Organizer for the now former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s campaign for governor both last summer and the fall semester.
Barrett is no stranger to politics. As a Politics major and the former President of the Centre Democrats, he spent years familiarizing himself with the finer details of the American political system, both on a local and federal level. Barrett felt a political campaign would be another opportunity to get even more experience. However, Barrett made it very clear that much of his motivation for joining the Martha Coakley campaign was to work to benefit society as a whole.
“I wouldn’t say that politics is the thing that fascinates me,” Barrett said. “What truly inspires me is the ability to make a positive change on a large group of people’s lives. It just so happens that politics is an agent to do that. I would also say that my fascination lies within the ability to govern for a ‘greater good.’”
Experience and the desire to do “good” were not the only reasons Barrett joined the Martha Coakley campaign. During her tenure as the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Coakley was responsible for introducing numerous social programs that helped those in financial need. This resonated with Barrett, since one of these people was his own mother.
Around the onset of the recession, Barrett’s mother lost her job at the Boston Globe due to the financial difficulties that the company, and many like it, suffered at that time. This left her with no available income to pay her mortgage or buy necessary supplies. However, with the help of the City Life/Vida Urbana, an organization heavily supported by Coakley designed to promote, among other things, social and economic justice, Barrett’s mother was able to keep her house and continue to live her life without fear of foreclosure. Therefore, this internship was not only an opportunity for him to get experience in the world of politics, but also to help someone who helped him and his family when they needed it the most.
“Martha Coakley was one the few and first Attorney Generals across America to sue the big banks for predatory lending and used the money to help set up programs to help families like my own stay in their homes,” Barrett said. “With the help of an organization called City Life/Vida Urbana and through the programs set up by Martha Coakley, as Attorney General of Massachusetts, we were able to stay in our home and shortly after, my mother got a source of income that allowed her to pay for her mortgage. Had it not been for Martha [Coakley] and organizations like City Life/Vida Urbana, we would not be in our home today.”
This desire to aid someone who did so much to help his own family manifested itself very prominently in his work, and the people who worked alongside him in the campaign recognized this. Although Barrett initially started out as an intern, he was quickly promoted to position of Field Organizer after two and a half weeks of work, a position he held until the end of the campaign. As a Field Organizer, Barrett had many duties that proved to be a valuable asset for the campaign. Working under the supervision of a Regional Field Director and with a very limited budget, it was his responsibility to organize volunteers in various regions of Massachusetts and motivate individuals to vote for Coakley. Barrett handled this by establishing strong connections with the leaders of smaller communities, particularly religious leaders, and using their influence to persuade citizens to vote for Coakley. His work also included voters in the surrounding towns of Milton and Randolph.
This experience proved to be very beneficial for Barrett on a variety of different levels, as he not only gained first-hand knowledge in how communities are a critical part of the election process, but also learned how to organize people and communicate orders effectively. He learned the importance of teamwork, and how to improvise quickly when things took a turn for the worse, which was not often, but happened nonetheless. However, no matter how stressful things got during his tenure, Barrett never let this get in the way of his responsibilities. According to campaign intern Taylor Grenga, who served under Barrett after he was promoted to Field Organizer, Barrett was a good boss who treated those above and below him with equal amounts of respect.
“[Barrett] always had a very positive attitude about the campaign and our work,” Grenga said. “He’s incredibly friendly and likable, and instantly made connections with voters and volunteers…He was technically my boss, although he never seemed to think he was better than me or the other interns. He usually insisted on sitting with us during the work day, and was always willing to use his people skills to help us out with voters.”
With all of the skills he learned during the Martha Coakley campaign, it seems as though Barrett is ready to make a promising career for himself after he leaves the “Centre Bubble” behind. Although he claims that his future is not set in stone, there are people out there who believe that he has what it takes to go far in this world.
Frank Munro, another former intern who worked under Barrett, believes that it is his professionalism and constant commitment to excellence and helping others that will eventually pave the way for a bright future in politics, despite Barrett’s claims to the contrary.
“Dennis claims to have no political ambitions of his own, but I think he is being coy about it,” Munro said. “He possesses all of the qualities that would make for a great political leader; hard working, honest, kind, and willing to go out on a limb for his beliefs. Only he knows if he will ever actually pursue such a path, but I would most definitely work on a campaign to help get him elected.”