About E. Denise Simmons

Denise with Magic Johnson and Somerville Alderman Maryann Heuston.
Denise with Magic Johnson and Somerville Alderman Maryann Heuston.

Denise Simmons, a lifelong resident of Cambridge, is currently serving her sixth term on the Cambridge City Council. Denise has spent the past three decades working to better her community – first as the Executive Director of the Cambridge Civic Unity Committee in the 1980s, then as a member of the Cambridge School Committee in the 1990s, and since 2002, as a member of the Cambridge City Council. During the 2008 – 2009 Council term, Denise served as Mayor of Cambridge, during which time she worked to make City Hall more accessible and more accountable to a greater number of people.

Over the course of her career, Denise has earned a reputation as a dedicated public advocate who works to build bridges across the city’s many constituencies. She was raised in a family that taught her the value of hard work, the importance of civic engagement, and the power of community. Those are the qualities that have guided her throughout her life, and throughout her time in office.

As a City Councilor, Denise has worked to make City Hall more transparent and more accountable to everyday citizens; she has drafted or supported legislation that promotes environmental protection, more affordable housing development, the development of “green economy” initiatives, greater responsiveness to senior citizens, and the closing of the educational achievement gap in Cambridge public schools.

Denise with Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
Denise with Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Denise drew national attention when she became the nation’s first Black, openly lesbian mayor in 2008. As Mayor, Denise sought to make City Hall more responsive to the community by holding regular “drop-in” hours for constituents, by opening up the Mayor’s Parlor for public celebrations and ceremonies, and by continuing to hold her signature Town Hall style meetings. These meetings allowed different constituency groups to come in to City Hall and speak directly to civic leaders, and to foster a greater understanding of how the City could be of greater service to its citizens. Denise also won praise for helping to bring about the nation’s first memorial to civil right pioneer Prince Hall upon the historic Cambridge Common.

Under her tenure, the Mayor’s Office eliminated thousands of dollars of wasteful spending, promoted environmentally friendly practices for official events, worked to honor and celebrate the city’s natural diversity, and helped hundreds of constituents navigate matters concerning employment, housing, and physical and emotional health. Denise also demonstrated leadership by leading discussions on issues of race and class, and by calling for greater cooperation between City Hall, the police department, and local realty management companies to promote greater public safety.

Denise is proud to continue her service to Cambridge as a City Councilor, and she looks forward to continuing to build upon the work she has done thus far. In addition to her work on the City Council, Denise also owns a small insurance business just outside of Central Square. She and her wife, Mattie Hayes, live with her grandchildren in the Central Square area.