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Meet Allison Eck

Q: How did you come to live in Watertown?

After graduating from college in 2012, I moved to Boston for my first job, at the PBS show NOVA, based at GBH, and was in search of a quiet, community-oriented neighborhood. I immediately fell in love with so many aspects of Watertown – Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Armenian markets, amazing foodie institutions like the Deluxe Town Diner and Strip T’s (RIP), and of course, the people. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived in Watertown for more than a decade now!

My coworkers back then called me the “Watertown mascot” because I had a habit of waxing poetic about how great it is. Over the years, I managed to recruit various friends to join the Watertown bandwagon. Between my effective evangelizing and my engagement in a few community groups here, I’ve created a wonderful local network and built something really special. I feel very lucky. 

Q: What are some of those community groups that you mention?

I’m in a group called Watertown Community Conversations, made up of lovely people whose mission is to facilitate the use of dialogue in our city to increase understanding across differences. 

Modern American society is experiencing multiple crises right now, and one of them is a decreased tolerance for uncertainty and a resistance to open-hearted dialogue. WCC believes that the solution starts at the local level, and that we have an opportunity—a duty, even—to model constructive conversations and citizen-inclusive decision-making.

As part of this work, we hold “Kitchen Table Conversations,” or KTCs, at homes and public spaces throughout Watertown. These fun and fulfilling events are, to us, at the core of what it means to be in community with one another. They showcase the powerful effect that dialogue processes can have on our daily lives as well as on long-term community planning.

I’m the newest member of the team, and it’s been fantastic to learn from my new friends, all of whom are experienced leaders and facilitators. I’m definitely the rookie among them! Inspired by this work, I’m reading a book right now called Slow Democracy by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout—I highly recommend it.

The Watertown Square Area Plan project has involved intensive community engagement. Our KTCs were part of that process this past fall. We partnered with the City to engage a total of 168 Watertown residents, business owners, employees, and students in conversations around a central question: How can Watertown Square become a more vibrant community center? Each of the 20 KTCs was hosted by a Watertown resident and was facilitated by a WCC-trained facilitator. You can read a summary of the KTC feedback as well as some anonymized quotes from the conversations at this link.

I also want to make a plug for the next Watertown Square Area Plan public meeting tomorrow, February 29 at 6:30 pm at 64 Pleasant Street, the same place where the design charrettes were held in the fall. You can RSVP here.

Q: What else are you involved in?

I work at Harvard Medical School as the dean’s speechwriter. I got into this very niche profession sort of by chance, and because I had the right combination of skills: NOVA trained me to be a savvy science journalist, and I did some ghostwriting at MIT for a couple years. I even consider my music background to be relevant to speechwriting—you have to have a good sense of rhythm and cadence to be an effective speechwriter. 

On that note, I play clarinet in the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra. I also served as board president, and now as vice president, I’m operationalizing our strategic plan, fundraising for our 50th anniversary season next year, and getting the word out about our concerts. I feel very strongly that the arts are integral to healthy civic infrastructure, so this all nicely ties back to my interest in community engagement.

By the way, my wind quintet, The Fresh Pond Five, which is made up of CSO players, is performing at the Library on April 27 as part of their annual winter concert series. We hope to see you there! 

Other than that, I spend a lot of time reading, making random trips to Sofra, making homemade ice cream for people, birding in the spring, and golfing in the summer. Nicole, you were the first recipient to ever request cardamom ice cream!

Q: What do you love most about living in the East End?

I love the sense of belonging that I feel here. I frequently run into friends and neighbors on Mount Auburn Street, at Artemis Yoga, or while walking around Fresh Pond. Our city is filled with charm, hard-working people, and immense potential. Oh, and we should all be very proud that the East End is home to one of Boston’s greatest hidden gems: La Bodega!


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