There always seems to be one major thing to define the mayoral liaisons that have served in Charlestown under Mayor Martin Walsh over the last several years, and for departing Liaison Quinn Locke – who ended his service in the job last Friday – that defining issue has been the COVID-19 pandemic.
Locke, 28, left the liaison position on Feb. 26 and has moved into working for a Boston-based construction firm – though not doing any work on projects in Charlestown. The second consecutive life-long Townie in the role, he said it was a good time to transition, though his two and a half years in the job will always scream pandemic to him as he goes forward.
While former liaisons were defined by the Encore casino, or the Bunker Hill Housing Development, Locke said nothing could measure up to what he and other liaisons learned while stepping up over the last year to be the boots on the ground during COVID-19.
“Everything changed because everything had to change,” said Locke. “It was a time when the City had a lot going on and this happened and it really came to define my experience in the job. We had to buckle down and make sure we handled this the right way.”
For Locke and other liaisons, the job expanded tremendously under COVID-19 as they were the one means of connection to neighborhoods like Charlestown when things went into lockdown and there were tremendous amounts of misinformation circulating about the virus. Liaisons delivered thousands of ChromeBooks all over the city to students in Boston Public Schools, they staffed the 3-1-1 call center to help with the huge increase in call volumes and they even fanned out with volunteers to flier every door and apartment in March with key COVID information translated into multiple languages.
Many forget, but in the first few weeks there wasn’t a great understanding of the virus and a lot of people had the wrong information – with some not even having heard about it yet. Locke rallied a group of volunteers in Charlestown in late March and they dropped fliers and other items at every doorstep. It was a monumental moment in the Town and across the City.
No one had ever attempted it, and no one had ever successfully done such an operation.
“One of the biggest things we did was the information packets we handed out in eight different languages,” he said. “We had a goal of getting to every single residence in Boston with volunteers and ourselves dropping info at houses, apartment buildings and in public housing. It took a team of volunteers and a lot of coordinating and we went out and made sure every residents had the packets and the information they needed in their own language.”
That night, after the canvassing, Locke said he had a moment he would never forget, and he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Back at City Hall, having met their goal, his former boss, Jerome Smith, gave a speech that Locke said will resonate forever with him as an historic moment.
“Jerome sat us down and gave a speech telling us we had put in hours and hours and days and days of effort to do exactly what the City needed and exactly what our office was created to do – to get accurate information out to the people. He said if we took anything from the job, it’s that accurate facts and data need to get into the hands of people. If that happens, then there will be successes…That’s something I’ll take into every job I’ll ever have the rest of my life.”
Beyond working in the construction industry with community outreach and contractor coordination outside of Charlestown, Locke said he wanted to get back to volunteering in the community as he did before – particularly as a swimming coach and Little League coach.
The City is currently looking for a new Charlestown liaison, and taking suggestions and applications. They hope to fill the role very soon.