Many of you know Sam from his work as a City Councilor in Boston. Elected to one of the At-Large positions, he has represented the entire city for almost two terms. But there is much more to Sam Yoon. He is a former public school teacher, community organizer and affordable housing developer who holds a graduate degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is a husband to wife, Tina and father to their children, Nathan and Naomi, who both attend the Boston Public Schools. He is an elder at his church, which he helped to found.
Sam has always been aware of the personal sacrifices that his parents made for him and his siblings. Like so many Irish, Italian, Hispanic and Asian immigrants before him, Sam’s parents moved to America because of the opportunities our country offers. Leaving their home in Korea when Sam was just ten months old, they wanted what all parents want for their children - a good education.
After graduating from high school, Sam was accepted to Princeton University. While there, he took a year off to participate in a teacher preparation program to become a certified teacher in the public schools. After graduating, Sam Yoon took a different route than many of his classmates. Forgoing the high-paying jobs that an Ivy League degree attracts, Sam took a job teaching in a tough, inner-city school. And just like teachers all over Boston, Sam went the extra mile for his students - taking a personal interest in them and buying needed supplies with his own money.
Sam left teaching with an understanding that we need to make fundamental change in our public school system. And that’s why he attended the Harvard Kennedy School. Here, he studied not only education reform, but became interested in economic development and affordable housing issues. While still a graduate student, he worked with Roxbury’s Dudley Square Merchant’s Association to help them earn federal Main Street designation.
Sam spent the next ten years giving back to Boston, by working with non-profit, community-based organizations. Sam’s first job was with a group that provides housing for people with mental illness and low income seniors. Sam then worked for Community Builders, the country’s largest non-profit developer of affordable housing. And later, Abt Associates - a public policy think tank - all the time learning how new ideas could solve old problems.
Sam went on to serve as Housing Director of the Asian Community Development Corporation. It was here that he became involved in serious community organizing. His years working with community-based organizations taught Sam many lessons - that it takes more than spreadsheets and meetings to get things done - it takes the grueling work of organizing, bringing together community members, elected officials and power brokers to turn ideas into reality.
Sam’s years working with these non-profits taught him that politicians could make a real difference in people’s lives and, more importantly, that there were very few people with his background and experience who sought elective office.
It was because of this that, in 2005, Sam decided to bring his skills in communication and collaboration to a run for an At-Large seat on the Boston City Council.
The pundits and the politics-as-usual crowd gave Sam no chance of winning. He was running against entrenched incumbents, as well as the children of two former mayors and the son of a Secretary of State. He had not played ball with the political insiders and “earned” his shot at office. But Boston voters thought differently. His message of community involvement and good government resonated with Bostonians and he handily won one of the At-Large council seats, despite being vastly outspent by his opponents. Two years later, he easily won re-election.
As a Councilor At Large, Sam did what he had been doing his whole life - working to bring communities together for positive change. Sam has been an outspoken advocate for better civic engagement in municipal government. His first move was to bring City Hall closer to his constituents. Realizing that people were unaware of the city’s budget process, he held meetings in every Boston neighborhood to explain the budget - and to seek input from those it affected directly. He then went on to do a series of email surveys before every budget hearing to receive further public input. He also fought hard to try to re-establish the Boston Youth Commission, and organized hundreds of young people to attend a budget hearing at City Hall.
Despite the limitations of being a city councilor in a strong-mayoral form of government, Sam has already made his mark on Boston in just three short years. From securing property-tax relief for seniors to saving the jobs of security guards at public housing to introducing innovative crime prevention programs like ‘Nickel for Public Safety’ and getting young people involved in their city and their government, Sam’s record of achievement as a councilor has distinguished him as a new kind of leader for Boston.
Now Sam Yoon is running for Mayor to bring the change that Boston needs and to move the city into the 21st century. He knows that we must face our problems head on and be willing to be bold, innovative and creative.
Sam lives with his wife, Tina, son, Nathan, and daughter, Naomi, in the Field’s Corner neighborhood of Dorchester.