Framingham state rep offers policy experience, tech savvy in bid to join Biden team

Photo by Alexius Horatius/Wikimedia Commons

By Haley Chi-Sing
Boston University Statehouse Program

BOSTON — A chemical engineer and public official, state Rep. Maria Robinson hopes to use both her policy experience and tech savvy to help bring in new ideas, should her nomination be successful to become assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity in the Biden administration’s Department of Energy.

The Framingham Democrat, 34, is being hailed for “leading the charge” in clean energy reform, according to a statement released by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. Robinson’s nomination needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The state rep, who is the first Korean-American elected to the General Court of Massachusetts, is from a small town in northern Pennsylvania, where she recalls looking up to now-President Joe Biden as a leading political figure.

“I’m incredibly humbled and excited at this potential opportunity,” she said. “It’s something that I didn’t necessarily expect to come in my path. And having the opportunity to serve in a Biden administration is especially incredible for me.”

Robinson originally moved to Framingham with her husband intending to immerse her family in a space that reflected the diversity of her own home.

The second-term legislator represents the 6th Middlesex District, which covers 11 of Framingham’s 18 precincts, mostly on the western side of the city.  

“I take seriously that the Asian-American population in Massachusetts is growing at a rapid rate,” Robinson said, “and that we need to have leaders that reflect the commonwealth as a whole. And so being able to spend time with other Korean-American leaders …was really important for me, personally.”

Along with the growing Asian community within her constituency, Robinson noted the need to continue diversifying representation within the growing minority Latinx and Brazilian communities in Framingham that she has been working to connect with state government.

Throughout her time at the Statehouse, Robinson has not only bolstered diversity but clean energy reform as well. With a chemical engineering background and energy policy expertise, she has led the House side of the Clean Energy Caucus and is the Massachusetts state lead to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. 

Robinson’s ideal role is being able to connect current policymakers and technologists to bring “the best and brightest ideas” to the forefront.

“I think there’s incredible research happening all across the world, at every moment in time, which we saw most recently with the ability of a number of chemical engineers being able to do all the COVID vaccines in such a short period of time,” she said. “But sometimes, the folks who are doing the best work in the sciences and engineering are not always plugged into public policy.”

Since her election in November 2018, Robinson has juggled her political career with everyday family life. She attributes her ability to do so to her husband and daughter’s support, as well as mentors and co-workers. The legislator often brings her daughter to local events, noting her extroverted personality.

“My daughter and my political role are very intertwined,” Robinson said.

In fact, Robinson attributed her frustration with the American foster care system during her daughter’s adoption process as the reason she went into politics.

In addition to being a state lawmaker, clean energy proponent, mother and wife, Robinson is an award-winning musical director. Robinson grew up with a love for musical theater and piano, employing both passions throughout her university and adult years. Over the last several years, she has served as a local community theater director and worked with nearly a dozen theater organizations throughout eastern Massachusetts.

“It’s something I’d love to get back to,” said Robinson. “Probably not in the immediate future, but it’s also something that attracted us to Framingham, because it has such a phenomenal theater presence in the schools.”

Robinson also serves as a lecturer at Tufts University in Medford.

Should her nomination into the Biden administration be successful, the state House will set a special election date to fill the 6th Middlesex District seat.

This article originally appeared in the Metro Daily West News.

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