The Justice interviews City Councilor for Ward 7
An alumni of the University discussed his personal and academic background as well as plans for the future of Ward 7.
On Nov. 2 2021, Paul Katz won the seat for Ward 7 City Council against David Russo with 566 votes total, according to the City of Waltham website. Katz is originally from Milton, Massachusetts and graduated from the University with a bachelor's degree in Economics.
In a Nov. 9 interview with the Justice, Katz described his journey into local politics and his new role as city councilor for Ward 7. When he moved to Waltham, Katz was “fascinated by the local cable access channel.” He watched the school committee, city council and licensing and franchise committee. This sparked his passion in local politics; he began to see things that did not look right and question why local politicians were making certain decisions.
Katz told a story about the moment that inspired him to take an active role in the community. Around four years ago, the community was dealing with the issue of where to place the new high school. According to Katz, the eight elementary schools and two middle schools had recently been rebuilt but the high school, was lagging behind. After some time, the school committee decided on a very contested location for the new high school and the Waltham Citizens for Education, a group he became involved with, decided to fight to place the school in a more appropriate location.
With this experience, his passion continued to grow. During summer 2021, Katz’s interest and involvement in local politics allowed him to see the many challenges that the community faced and he came to the decision to run for City Council. His motivation was that the Waltham community “can do better and be more transparent,” and that the local policies have to be right for the general community rather than a small minority of people.
Katz then described the challenges facing Ward 7 and his plans for the future. He identified the first responsibility as the Ward’s residents. This includes dealing with any challenges that people have like public safety issues, fixing sidewalks and making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Katz emphasized that residents are not just homeowners, but also include renters, tenants and students.
The second responsibility is to keep, and improve, the relationship between the University’s campus and community. Katz explained that the University gives, and can continue to give, a lot to the community, and he wants to explore ways that the community can also support the University.
His third responsibility targets the fact that while he is in charge of Ward 7, the surrounding wards are essential to implementing local policies. “Everything that other wards and the city does impacts us … Everything is interrelated and interconnected,” said Katz. He plans to create and uphold relationships with other ward councilors, some of whom he has good and engaging relationships with.
During the interview, Katz also gave some insight into his personal and academic background. Katz retold the story of his decision to come to Brandeis. He had attended a pre-college program at the New England Conservatory and in a piano concerto competition, one of the judges, late Robert Koff, former director of performance activities at the University, encouraged Katz to come to Brandeis. Entering his first year, Katz was on the pre dental track but soon realized that the field was not for him and transferred to study economics.
Continuing his passion and love for music, he attended some lessons and chamber playing while he was an undergraduate. “If I knew what I know today, I would have majored in music,” said Katz.
After graduating, Katz entered consulting, specifically consulting for the computer industry. He explained that while working for computer consulting firms, he aspired to be a part of the creative side — marketing. Using his analytical skills from economics and his self-taught skills for marketing, he was able to succeed in the field. He worked in many different roles in marketing, from consumer products to beauty supplies to launching companies (like Upromise and Vista Print), according to Katz.
When asked about the role of music in his career, Katz responded that for a while after graduating, he had a “dual life of marketing person by day and theater person by nights and weekend.” A few years into his career in consulting and marketing, he contemplated the Broadway music theater scene and while he did not end up there, he made a lot of connections and mentors which eventually led him back to Boston.
When he came back to Boston, “the regional theater scene was just starting to bloom,” therefore he was able to keep himself involved. Katz also said that once he got married and started a family, he found a balance which did not include as much music as before. That being said, he is still involved in the Reagle Music Theater of Greater Boston in Waltham as well as the Speakeasy Stage Company in Boston.
When asked if Katz plans to keep working in marketing, he responded that this position in City Council is part-time in addition to his jobs. His belief is that local politics were always meant as an addition to a job, but at the state level it has become a career “where it was not supposed to be.” Regarding his future career in politics, Katz said that he “has no aspirations to do more beyond [City Council] at this point in time.” He explained that he is very happy with his career in marketing, involvement in music and theater and being a homeowner and father — politics is just his method of doing better for the community.
The final portion of the interview focused on advice for current Brandeis students. For individuals who may want to go into local politics, Katz said that you have to become passionate about something that you want to change or affect rather than just have an interest in it. He recalled an anecdote: two years ago, Katz asked a candidate running for city council why he was running and his response was, “it sounds like something interesting to do.”
Katz believes that interest as motivation is not good enough: “until you have passion, I don’t think politics is the place to be.” Katz applies this advice to any career; passion is the key to being happy and successful.