32 Years a City Leader, Freda’s Not Done Yet
LEOMINSTER -- When Claire Freda was sworn in to her 13th term on the City Council Monday night, she began her 32nd year in local government, making her the longest-serving elected official in the city.
Freda said her interest in politics was sparked in the late 1970s, when she began reading about a proposal that would shuffle students around to different schools in the city. Her daughter was just entering the educational system at the time.
“There was a group of parents who protested a little bit, got signatures, put a petition in to stop the move, which we were able to do,” said Freda, who has worked for decades as a Realtor in the city. She said stopping the measure made the city more attractive to people looking to relocate to the area. “One of the biggest things in looking for a home is where your children are going to go to school.”
Freda, who grew up in Fitchburg before moving to Leominster, was elected to the School Committee in 1987, and her career as a public servant was off and running. She said there was always a struggle in those early years to get money for education into the budget.
Freda was first elected to the City Council in 1994, and has chaired every committee, including the Finance Committee. She is also the only female councilor to serve two consecutive terms as president.
As a Gold Star wife, Freda said one of her top priorities was ensuring that local veterans have access to necessary services. She said her interest in veterans issues began after her late husband, Ronnie, returned from a combat tour in Vietnam and was unable to find proper treatment for his wounds.
Among the accomplishments of which she is most proud during her time in public office were her efforts to refurbish the land near Samoset School into soccer fields in the early 1990s.
“It was a huge deal because soccer was just coming into the area, and we didn’t have enough fields,” she said. “Now, they’re beautiful and I love seeing the kids play up there.”
Freda, who attended Mount Wachusett Community College, said one of the most pressing issues currently facing the city is the need for a new police station.
“I’ve been advocating and pushing for (the new station) for many, many years,” Freda said. “It’s just been a dead-end every time we turn around.”
However, she said she remains cautiously optimistic that progress will be made on the issue over the next few years, especially since the city has recently purchased property for a new station.
“We have the land now, so the next step will be funding the building,” she said.
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