Committed to our Community
Written by Christine Fennelly
Photography by Joel Benjamin
He has lived in France, Italy, and Africa. He climbed the Rocky Mountains when he was 15 with Outward Bound and started a non-profit with college friends to provide HIV/AIDS testing and treatment to rural communities in Tanzania. He studied in Paris when he was a teenager and then later struggled to fit in as a city kid in the inordinately affluent community at the College of William and Mary. Yet, the more Jake went away from home, the more he felt close to South Boston. January’s Character of the Month is Southie’s own Jake Bombard.
Present occupation: Chief of Staff for Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
Future occupation as of February 1st: Deputy Director of the Laboure Center in South Boston
CIS: So congratulations on the new job! You must be thrilled.
JB: I truly am so excited for this chapter of my life. I’m about to finish my Master’s in Public Administration at UMass Boston and I am really looking forward to focusing my career on services for people in this community who are in need.
CIS: Will you miss politics and particularly the political scene in South Boston?
JB: My participation in government and political campaigns were tremendous opportunities for me from a network-building perspective and also to really listen and learn about what concerns our neighbors most. But the best part about working in government—the part that makes it worthwhile—is that you get to help people. People you care about. Which, I will most definitely get to keep doing at the Laboure!
CIS: You grew up an only child with a single mom in the D Street Projects, and you yourself have said that you could’ve been a statistic, referring to the many other friends of yours who succumbed to addiction. Why do you think you were spared that road?
JB: I was blessed with a very close and extended family. My mom was one of five kids, so my aunts and uncles were always around and my grandparents were very involved in my life. I had a lot of people looking out for me – in fact even when I wanted to get into trouble, my friends would stop me and say ‘No way Bombard, this is not for you.’ Honestly, I had a pretty amazing childhood. My mom worked her butt off so I could go to St. Augustine’s until 5th grade and then on to Boston Collegiate Charter School. And I’ve always liked to get stuff done – so when it was time for me and my friends to learn to drive, I brokered a deal with the local driving school to set up a program for the Boston Collegiate kids. I wanted to learn guitar, so I started a guitar club at school. If you really want to get something done, you can always find a way to do it.
CIS: So in the spirit of wanting to get something done, you ran for State Representative in 2010.
JB: Yeah, that was so much fun. I did it right out of college, knowing I’d get whooped, but it was a fantastic experience for me to talk about issues in the community I really care about. And then Rep. Collins ended up bringing me on his staff. From there, I later got involved volunteering on Mayor Walsh’s campaign, and then working in Senator Forry’s office. Jumping in as the ultimate underdog in 2010 ended up opening so many doors for me. I think it’s good to think outside the box and take risks sometimes when you’re doing something you love.
CIS: Biggest pet peeve?
JB: Oh, it’s got to be people who don’t say ‘God Bless You’ when you sneeze.
CIS: Someone living you most admire?
JB: My grandfather, Gary. He is such a kind and incredibly smart man. There has never been a day in his life when he hasn’t put a full day’s work in (even in his retirement). And he taught me to do the same. He is one of the most loyal and loving men I have ever known.
CIS: Someone who’s passed away you most admire?
JB: Robert F. Kennedy. I’m fascinated by his life, and inspired by his belief that everyone sharing a common community should also share in what he called the ‘common effort.’ I can’t read enough books about him.
CIS: Favorite Southie restaurant?
JB: My Diner has the best French Toast in the city, hands down! And I am monumentally bummed that it is closing!
CIS: Best part of living in Southie?
JB: There’s an indescribable type of friendship we have that is not exclusive to people who grew up here. I’ve always felt that no matter your origin, if you’re calling Southie home, people have your back.