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78-Year-Old Conservative Althea Garrison Replaces Ayanna Pressley in Boston City Council

Just after noon Wednesday, in the Boston City Council chamber, 78-year-old Alethea Garrison was sworn into her dream job.

But the road to city councilor was a bumpy one for Garrison, who has run for several different elected offices since the 1980s — as a Democrat, as a Republican and now as an independent — winning just once in the 90s, a state representative seat she held for one term.

"I never quit," Garrison said. "I'm constantly running, and I knew it would pay off."

Garrison becomes City Counselor thanks to Ayanna Pressley, who vacated her seat after being elected to Congress in November.

City rules say the next place finisher among the four at-large winners is offered the post.

Garrison came in a distant fifth with less than 7 percent. Still, she says she feels like a trailblazer.

"Independent conservative" is how Garrison describes her political leanings. She voted for Donald Trump.

"He's different," Garrison said of the president. "That's what elected him. That he was different from the rest of the candidates."

Joao DePina is a community activist in Roxbury who considers Garrison a friend, despite their political differences. He doesn't like that some don't take Garrison seriously, or push her to explain her gender identity.

"I'm proud of her, and it just shows resilience," DePina said. "If she's transgender, as we, most of us, do know, it's up to her to feel in her freedom as what she is."

Mayor Marty Walsh appreciates Garrison's focus on veterans, the elderly and housing, and he is quick to answer what she brings to the council.

"I think continued diversity," he said. "I mean obviously, that something that's really important."

Garrison is filling out the second year of Pressley's two-year term. She has already said she intends to run for re-election. She says she's energetic and ready to get to work.

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