Sunderland, MA – Today, Natalie M. Blais of Sunderland, Massachusetts, announced her candidacy for the Massachusetts House of Representatives 1st Franklin District, representing Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties. Blais is running as a Democrat.
“I have worked on behalf of the residents of western Massachusetts for over a decade and would be honored to continue this advocacy as the State Representative for the 1st Franklin District,” said Blais. “All too often, issues affecting rural communities like ours go unnoticed. I am running to ensure that the voices of Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties are heard in Boston.”
Outlining her priorities, Blais said, “I intend to continue regional efforts to ensure that broadband is available in all communities in western Massachusetts, push for infrastructure investments in transportation and affordable housing and expand workforce development. We must identify ways to grow the regional economy while supporting our local businesses, especially our farmers who not only act as the keepers of our scenic vistas but who also provide us with healthy, local food.”
Blais is Executive Director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization dedicated to strengthening and sustaining economic and civic vitality in our region. Under her leadership, the Chamber has supported area businesses and advocated for state policies that benefit the rural economy. She has been an outspoken proponent of expanding the region’s reputation as an outdoor recreational hub and exploring ways to enhance the creative economy.
Blais moved to Massachusetts in 2005 from Vermont where she ran then-Congressman Bernie Sanders’ 1998 statewide field campaign, worked for the first female Vermont State Auditor and served as assistant to Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. She was hired as a district aide to Congressman John W. Olver in 2005. In this role, Blais helped constituents in the Pioneer Valley who were experiencing difficulties with the federal government including social security and veteran’s benefits.
“I learned the importance of responsive constituent services under the tutelage of John Olver and will absolutely make that a cornerstone of my office, if elected,” said Blais.
In 2007, Blais was promoted to Economic Development Specialist and also handled communications for Congressman Olver until his retirement in 2013. Congressman Jim McGovern hired Blais as one of two staffers in his Northampton office for the newly redistricted 2nd Congressional District.
As a Congressional Aide to U.S. Representatives Olver and McGovern, Blais worked with communities, non-profits and businesses to advance community priorities including broadband expansion, bike paths, roadway and rail projects, and the adoption of energy efficient and renewable energy technology to name only a few. Blais was instrumental in the successful effort to return Amtrak passenger rail service to the Connecticut River valley.
“Working on behalf of U.S. Representatives Olver and McGovern gave me a clear understanding of the challenges facing the communities of western Massachusetts and the necessity of bringing everyone to the table to develop viable solutions,” said Blais.
Blais became the first full-time Chief of Staff to University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in 2015. At the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, Blais served as an advisor to the Chancellor, oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Chancellor’s office and coordinated activities that advanced campus priorities.
“My time at UMass Amherst strengthened my belief that world class public educational opportunities should be made available and affordable to all. Achieving that goal requires collaboration between our community colleges and public universities, their students and faculty and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Blais.
Blais earned a B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and an M.A. in Organizational and Political Communication from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, after being awarded the Cecil and Helen Rose Ethics in Communication Scholarship.
In 2015, Natalie was awarded the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Regional Recognition Award honoring her “dedicated public service, responsible leadership, and unwavering support of the goals of sound planning and regional cooperation.”
Natalie is married to Luke Bussard, the Defensive Coordinator for Amherst College Football. They have two sons, Shane and Danny.
A campaign kick-off event will be held later in the spring.