City Councilor takes position at NU

City Councilor takes position at NU
Photo Courtesy/City of Boston

by Gal Tziperman Lotan, News Staff

After nine years on Boston’s City Council, John M. Tobin will become Northeastern’s vice president of city and community affairs Aug. 2.

Tobin said he will help communicate with surrounding communities about Northeastern’s affairs, including Institutional Master Plan (IMP), a guideline for the university’s expansion projects over the next 10 years. The university recently asked for an extension on the plan despite its original due date of July 13.

Though the Boston Redevelopment Authority has final approval of the IMP, it does take the City Council’s recommendations into account.

Tobin said he did not believe his appointment was politically motivated.

“I pursued the position more so than they were asking,” he said. “There were tense situations in the City Council where I’ve taken a leadership role, and I like to think that’s why I was selected.”

Though Tobin has not sponsored major ordinances that impacted the city’s college students in particular, he was on the council in 2008 when it unanimously approved the ordinance known as No More Than Four, which prohibits five or more undergraduate students from living in the same non-dormitory residence.

The ordinance was proposed by District 8, which includes Northeastern, councilor Mike Ross, now the City Council’s president.

“I had mixed feeling about that [ordinance] at the time,” he said. “I had some misgivings about it, but I paid respect to the district councilor who was leading the initiative.”

Tobin said Ross was one of his closest friends on the council and said that while they sometimes disagree, they maintain a mutually respectful relationship.

Tobin, now in his fifth term as councilor, has represented District 6, which includes Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and parts of Mission Hill and Roxbury, since 2001. He was born in Boston in 1969 and grew up in Dorchester’s Lower Mills neighborhood and West Roxbury, where he currently lives. Tobin graduated from the University of Massachusetts – Boston in 1995 with a degree in political science. He has also managed comedy clubs in the city for the past 18 years.

“When I got into the interview process [for the Northeastern position], I never felt any pressure or nervousness because I had a great fallback,” he said. “I enjoy what I do as a Boston city councilor.”

His new job will allow him to spend more time with his wife and two sons, who are 4 and 2 years old, he said.

“For me, it was more of an oppurtunity to broaden my horizons and spend more time with my kids,” he said. “And who wouldn’t take a position like this?”

This appointment comes after Jeff Doggett’s resignation in early December, when he left the position of vice president of government relations and community affairs to pursue career opportunities in Washington. Following his resignation, he helped Mike Armini, who was vice president of marketing and communications, to take over some of the responsibilities, ultimately making him senior vice president for external affairs. With Armini taking some Doggett’s responsibilities, Tobin’s new position was created.

Special elections for Tobin’s District 6 City Council seat will take place in the fall. The exact dates have yet to be announced.

Tobin’s first order of business, he said, will be to meet with community members both on and off campus.

“People want to be heard, and they want to listen,” he said.

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