An Immigrant Story

I was born and orphaned in Greece and adopted there by my Scottish father and my Czech-German mother. We are a family of immigrants. We immigrated together to the US when I was four, and as a child I learned that some people are afraid of differences. I was sometimes ridiculed and excluded because of cultural differences: we ate different food and wore different clothes, and spoke in a different accent. I became a US citizen when I was a teenager, but I've been told as an adult that I'm not a real American because I was not born here.


Katjana at The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, Ellis Island

Katjana at The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

In 1993 I moved to Somerville and discovered a city changing quickly, but embracing its diversity and progressive values. I felt I could fit in here, and I’m grateful that my husband Rick and I put down roots and raised our two daughters in Somerville.
My family and my experience as an immigrant taught me to value differences, so now I always try to include everyone. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the most effective approach because we accomplish our greatest achievements together.

I was the first in my family to go to college. I worked and used student loans to earn a BA and an MBA. I have 30 years of experience in international business, start-up companies, nonprofits, and local government. I’ve served seven years on the city council and I was elected President of the City Council twice. My leadership experience in business and local government has taught me that inclusive leadership creates buy-in, shared purpose, and enthusiasm. I am completely committed to inclusive leadership, because while it might take longer, it delivers better results.

We chose Somerville because it seemed affordable, we had access to transit, walkable neighborhoods, and nearby jobs. We’ve stayed because of the people. So many of us in Somerville care about the same things and enjoy working together to strengthen our community, to make our city truly welcoming with opportunity for everyone.

Over time, my local activism increased as the challenges of affordability, access to jobs, and need for better transportation options became greater. I served as a member and board president of the Somerville Community Corporation where we worked to preserve economic diversity through affordable housing creation and workforce development planning, and to give youth tools to work through conflict in the Mediation Program. I volunteered for seven years as a mentor in public schools.

I’ve been an active volunteer with the Mystic View Task force, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, and other community groups since the 1990s. We've worked together to create better planning for mixed-use, smart development in Assembly Square, and in other transformative areas of our city. This advocacy and planning enabled the new Orange Line T stop at Assembly and the Green Line Extension (GLX). These improvements in transportation and mobility increase our access to opportunities in the region while they improve our local environment and local safety.

In 2013 I was honored to be elected to our City Council. I was elected twice to serve as its President. As a Councilor I’ve worked for inclusive, open government, affordability and jobs, diversity, justice, responsible planning and economic development, and environmental sustainability. It is a such a rewarding experience to serve in a city where so many residents take an active role in local policy and strive to ensure our community works for all of our residents.

As I set a new course as a candidate for Mayor, I draw from all these experiences. I know we can build an even better and stronger community by inclusion, by collaboration, and by genuinely caring for our neighbors. I look forward to the campaign and, most of all, and to hearing the stories of our neighbors who share that love for our city and the passion to make it even better.