Bob McWatters is a lifelong Somerville resident with a passion for helping people and working for progressive change. Through experience and dedicated persistence, he knows that it takes an entire neighborhood—working together—to build the kind of future that we all want and need.
As a child, Bob’s family of six shared a two-bedroom Spring Hill apartment. It was a home filled with love and loyalty, but also tremendous strife. His grandmother, an Irish immigrant, was an ongoing source of stability. Bob moved in with her at the age of thirteen.
His grandmother’s encouragement and inspiration left a deep mark on Bob. He discovered that making a difference in the lives of others gave his life meaning and purpose. A priest at Bob’s Catholic high school located near Boston’s red-light district talked him out of his early interest in the priesthood. Instead, he enrolled at UMass Boston while still living with his grandmother and working at Star Market. It was the only affordable college option.
Bob went on to become a social worker and was responsible for investigating instances of child abuse and neglect. At night, he earned his Master’s degree from Northeastern University. In 1984, Bob became a probation officer, and for the last 33 years, he has worked to empower individuals to access community resources and health care, so they can stay in their communities.
Several years ago, his commitment and passion led a Middlesex County judge to ask for Bob’s help in creating separate specialty courts, or “problem solving” courts, for individuals suffering from mental illness or who are homeless. The program is based upon the premise that there is room for treatment, compassion, and recovery within the justice system. Attorneys, probation officers, social workers, therapists, and psychiatrists work together as a team. The program has enabled virtually all of its participants to remain in the community instead of being incarcerated.
Bob’s interest in politics began with watching political conventions on television with his grandmother and holding signs for candidates as a teenager. Back then, Somerville’s political culture was dominated by favoritism and personal loyalty. More recently, newly elected aldermen have asserted a newfound sense of independence and commitment to transparency.
Since Bob’s election as Ward 3 Alderman four years ago, he has been an independent thinker and accomplished progressive. He has worked hard to advance affordable housing, a sustainable environment, safe streets, quality schools, and holding developers accountable.
- Affordable Housing: Bob pushed for a 20% inclusionary housing requirement for major developments in Somerville.
- Environment: He was at the forefront on the successful effort to ban Styrofoam and plastic bags in Somerville, and was instrumental in the establishment of a full-time arborist to protect the City’s vital green canopy.
- Safe Streets: Bob’s traffic-calming measures and commitment to “Neighborways” have become a citywide model for pedestrian, motor vehicle, and cycling safety.
- Schools: He was a leader in the fight to win public support for a ballot initiative to approve funding for a new, state-of-the-art high school.
- Development and Community Benefits: Bob fought for openness and transparency in the ongoing Union Square zoning and redevelopment process. The final plan requires the Union Square master developer to contribute millions of dollars in community benefits, create over three acres of open space, and negotiate a community development agreement (CBA) with a forming Union Square Neighborhood Council.
- Workforce Development: Bob strongly advocated for a development linkage fee to encourage and support local job training.
- Equality: Bob supported crucial protections for the LGBTQ community, including the addition of gender identity to Somerville’s anti-discrimination ordinance
If Bob is known for anything, it’s that he listens to his constituents, all of them—from every background, political persuasion, and neighborhood. His passion is serving his constituents. Whether the issue is big or small, Bob is there to listen and help. If you’re looking for an example of this commitment, just walk around our neighborhood, and you will see him in action or his impact on our community. Of course, you can always pick up the phone and call him yourself. Then you’ll see first-hand how no one fights harder for the people of Ward 3!