Collins: Core urban issues spur his agenda

In the two and a half years since his election as South Boston’s representative in the Massachusetts House, Nick Collins has focused on the urban issues his district faces on a daily basis.

In an interview on Monday with the Reporter, Collins said that his successes so far on Beacon Hill have come from maintaining the “same fervor and same passion” that he had on the campaign trail. He sees his role in the House as bringing needed resources to the communities he represents, and the 30-year-old Southie native says he’s excited about possibly playing that role on the larger stage of the State Senate.

Collins lays out his priorities as public safety, health, and education and he can rattle off a list of accomplishments, locally focused and statewide efforts, that he has been part of at the State House. He cites the way he championed the creation of a daytime drug unit to crack down on the illegal drug trade in South Boston and other parts of the city. “That was, I think, one of the biggest singular accomplishments of the first term,” he said.

The drug problem in Boston has had a lasting impact on Collins’s career, with a string of murders over the last two years resulting from the trade. “We had a crisis in South Boston. The defining moment of my first term was in the drug crisis that we were dealing with,” he said. “I had been trying to sound the alarm and then it hit the point where we had a couple, a string, of murders and we had to come together,” Collins said. A task force was formed among city and state police, elected officials, the MBTA, and the Drug Enforcement Agency that led to over 200 arrests and a significant drop in crime in the neighborhood.

In 2010, Collins beat out three Democratic primary candidates and a Republican challenger to win the election to replace former Rep. Brian Wallace. One of five siblings raised in a three-decker in South Boston by his father Jim, a former state representative himself, and his mother Mary, Collins attended Boston Latin School before earning a degree at Babson College.

He is confident about his election chances and said the turning point for his campaign came late last month when he earned the backing of a group of community activists, including William Celester, a former Boston Police superintendent, Larry Ellison, the head of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, Minister Don Muhammad, and Leonard Lee, former state director at the Department of Public Health. The group, Communities United Political­Action Committee, said they chose to back Collins over his opponents because of his commitment to education, housing, and gun violence issues.

“I think the days of identity politics are over. I think you’re going to see it in the mayor’s race. I think you’re seeing it in the Senate race now,” Collins said. “There’s a past to this city, and I think the page has been turned on it.”

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