Rep. Denise Garlick, at her Report to the Community, announces she is not running for re-election/ Credit: The Needham Channel

On Monday, Feb. 12, after delivering her 39th “Report to the Community,” State Rep. Denise Garlick announced she will not seek reelection after seven terms in office. She said this is not a decision she made quickly or took lightly. 

As she prepares to serve her final year as state representative for some 43,000 constituents, she said she has given a lot of thought as to what her next chapter will be. 

“My husband said to me, as he’s watched me try and make this decision for months now, that he thinks it’s as hard to decide not to run as it was to run,” she said. “And I think he’s right.”

Garlick said she sees her life as chapters, and as she approaches what she calls her platinum birthday, she looks forward to what the next chapter will bring her, her family, and as always her community.  

“People say that they’re sad and going to miss me,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere. My heart and soul is in this community, and there will be many many ways that I want to continue the work that is underway and that I want to see to completion.” 

Although Garlick will complete her term, which runs until Dec. 31, she said she wanted to announce now, at the beginning of the election cycle, so candidates have the chance to come forward and campaign. In a presidential election year, Garlick said more eyes will be on the candidates, and they will need to work hard to gain the trust and ultimately the support of residents in Norfolk’s 13th District to ensure that the relationship between the community and its representative is strong.

“The basis of good government is that the representatives [people] elect are working in their best interest,” said Garlick. “That’s where our hope comes from. And when we don’t have that, that’s where despair comes from. I want to make sure that my district is hopeful looking into the future.” 

Garlick prides herself on listening to what her constituents need and taking up their causes at the Statehouse. Throughout her tenure to take the pulse of the community she has gone door to door and held public meetings to learn what things people worried about most. 

Rep. Denise Garlick is joined by her family at her 2024 Report to the Community/ Credit: Georgina Arietta-Ruetenik

Former Select Board member Dan Matthews, who served with Garlick on the board for one term and who has helped with each of her campaigns for the Legislature, called this a great loss. “We’re losing an enormous amount of experience and commitment and institutional memory,” he said. “She’s taken a lot of action to help us get things done.” 

Matthews highlighted the work Garlick has done to improve public education, her advocacy for healthcare and individuals with disabilities, her support of senior issues, and her leadership at the state level throughout the pandemic. He also talked about the important work she did as the chair of the Board of Health to form the Needham Coalition for Suicide Prevention during a very difficult time in the town’s history. 

Colleen Schaller, chair of the Council on Aging, has been Garlick’s longtime friend and supporter. She said she cried when Garlick told her group of close friends and original campaign team prior to announcing publicly. “I felt that she was really doing so well for the town of Needham, and I would have campaigned with her and for her for as long as she wanted.” 

One of Garlick’s most notable qualities, said Schaller, is that she is always available. “She was just always there for people, and if you have something you need she works her butt off.”  

Matthews said as with everything in life, change is necessary. “Change is always difficult,” he said. “There never is a best time to leave, but there’s time to make a change, and she decided this was the right time for her. She’s done great work and she’s been a good friend to me, to the town, and really a contributor to the wellbeing of the whole state.” 

Having worked as a bedside nurse for years before moving to her government roles, Garlick compared this year to the end of a shift. “I want to be sure that when I finish this work, the next individual that takes up the work has information and my time has been meaningful and they can build on it.” 

With more than 10 months of work ahead, Garlick said she’s left herself plenty of time to determine exactly what this next chapter will look like, but she does have a few areas she plans to focus on. Affordable housing, particularly through the Needham Housing Authority, she said has always been close to her heart and something for which she will continue to advocate. Another more recent concern is the toxicity and lack of respect in discourse when people disagree. 

“We don’t have to agree with each other, but we should never doubt each other’s motivations,” she said. “I’m worried that I see this lack of civil discourse in the nation and in the commonwealth, and I want to ensure that I’m part of the solution that we don’t see it in our community.”

“The next chapter of my life will always be filled with purpose,” she said. “But I want it to be filled with love and joy as well.” 

As for her regular breakfast meetings at Fresco, she said not to worry, she plans to be there as often, and with any luck even more.

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