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Friends Having Breakfast

Meet Me in Medford | Zac Bears City Council

For City Council President Zac Bears, Medford is more than a city on a map; it is a rich tapestry woven with layers of historical significance, captivating natural landscapes, and the unwavering strength of its community bonds. His deep love for our city is nurtured by its diverse heritage, scenic vistas, and the resilience exhibited by its residents. These factors collectively fuel his unwavering commitment to supporting and elevating the Medford community.


We spent time with Zac to hear more about what he loves about Medford and his vision for making it even greater. 


You grew up in Medford. Tell us about your neighborhood and the Medford you remember from childhood.

I grew up in North Medford, attended Kindergarten at the Davenport, Grades 1-4 at the Hervey, and was in the first 5th grade at the (at the time) new Brooks School!

Like many kids, I played soccer, but I was also involved in music throughout high school. I sang in the chorus, played tuba in the band, upright bass in the orchestra, and valve trombone in the jazz band. 


Medford is an amazing place because it combines so many different things. You're so close to Boston, you have so many great neighbors from different backgrounds, and you have access, really good access to open space — The Middlesex Fells, Wright’s Pond, and of course, the Mystic River. We have a great history as well — Paul Revere rode through Medford Square, and we have a rich history of shipbuilding and rum-making. Overall, it’s a wonderful community. I've never wanted to live anywhere else. And if I'm lucky, I won't have to.



What inspired you to run for City Council? What keeps you inspired to continue serving?

I ran for office because I see the potential in Medford to be even greater than it is now. We've got a solid community, a great location, and fantastic open spaces. But I think on the other side, we've been lacking government investment in our infrastructure for far too long – our schools, public buildings, roads, and sidewalks need serious attention. Imagine how much better Medford could be without trash on the streets, with well-paved roads, and a clear plan for the future.


I've been fortunate to serve on three different councils, each with its own mix of people and ideas. But this current council, especially after the last election, has a strong direction that some residents find concerning. I get that. We still aim to listen to everyone, even if we don't always agree. As Paulette Van Der Kloot once said during a heated debate, "We hear you. We just don't agree with you." That's the essence of democracy – disagreements are inevitable. We have infinite diversity in infinite combinations, and true unity lies in understanding and respecting our differences.


It is deeply meaningful to me to be able to do this work. I've been watching it from the time I was holding signs for Bruce Kulik’s School Committee campaign. I shook [former Mayor] Michael McGlynn’s hand on the graduation podium, and I remember working on [former Mayor] Stephanie Burke's campaign in 2015.  


I was elected months before the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m not sure we’ve fully recovered from its after-effects. Municipalities took on extraordinary financial burdens and during my tenure, I've witnessed really tough discussions, especially those of the School Committee and ongoing funding issues. I believe these are issues that students and parents care deeply about, but the government has overlooked the serious funding issues for too long. When roads aren't fixed, it's us who end up paying for it with car repairs. And when schools lack resources, parents end up shelling out for tutors or donating to booster clubs. It's like we're paying for it one way or another, but there's this unfairness that creeps in when we don't tackle these problems together. It breaks my heart, especially in schools, when some families have more to give while others struggle to make ends meet. That's where my passion comes from, and I can get pretty emotional about it. I wear my heart on my sleeve, as folks around here know. I simply want to do my part to build the best community we possibly can. 


I firmly believe that if my actions don't align with what I promised voters I would do when I asked for their votes, then I'm not fulfilling my duty. I'm passionate about serving Medford, and I've invested a lot of time and energy into this role and reflecting what the community has been asking for. But let's be clear – it's a privilege, not a right. I'm grateful for the trust voters have placed in me, and I strive to honor that trust by staying true to my promises and the will of the people in electing me. I’ll continue to serve until such time that voters don’t think I am. And that is really how I view it.


I've come to understand that each City Council and School Committee member holds a project close to their heart, separate from their daily duties, that they hope to see realized. What's yours?

I have a strong desire to honor our community and acknowledge what we've been through by creating a COVID-19 Memorial of some sort. I truly believe it's crucial. It's a way to pause and reflect on the collective experiences we've endured. I was tuned in to Jim and Marjorie on Boston Public Radio recently, and someone shared their heartbreaking story of losing both parents and a sister within the first two months of the pandemic. It's moments like these that we need to hold space for and commemorate in a meaningful and poignant manner.



For newcomers to Medford, what are some of your favorite hidden gems around the area? Those special places that might not be as well-known but are definitely worth exploring off the beaten path?

Occasionally, after a hectic week, I indulge myself with a raspberry lime rickey at Colleen’s. Then, I take a leisurely stroll across the footbridge to the Mystic River, following the footpath by the Condon Shell. The late afternoon is especially rejuvenating, offering a chance to witness the sunset and enjoy a peaceful walk along the riverbank. Then as I return over the footbridge once again, the welcoming glow of Colleen’s neon sign guides me back to the Square.


North Medford offers some spectacular views. I grew up on Fellsway West with a direct view of Wright’s Tower, where you can also catch a great sunset view, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, walking up to that point in the Fells offers a great view of the Boston skyline. Our roof used to have red shingles and I loved going up there as a kid to catch a view of our home. 


As someone deeply interested in Medford's history, I find the Local History Room at the Medford Public Library to be a treasure trove of photographs showcasing the city's evolving landscapes. It's fascinating to witness how Medford has transformed over the years. Similarly, the Medford Historical Society houses a remarkable collection of historical artifacts and images. I've lost count of the hours I've spent immersing myself in their archives. It's surprising to learn, for instance, that the area behind the police station was once residential, now transformed into a commercial and industrial area. Likewise, seeing old photos reveals that the Craddock Bridge used to be a bustling intersection before the Route 16 overpass divided the area. The impact of highway construction on Medford's landscape is profound. One of my aspirations is to find a way to revitalize the overpass area, restoring it to its former glory and reconnecting the neighborhoods on either side.


If your best friend told you they were considering moving to Medford, what would you tell them?

I think what I would say is, “Thank God, finally.” I want everyone to move to Medford. I would just say that it's a lovely place to live. I've been really lucky to have cousins who moved here a few years ago. You know, we weren’t a long-time Medford family, but now we are.

There are so many different aspects of Medford that meet various people’s needs. If you're seeking quick access to the outdoors of a place like the Fells, North Medford is the place to be. For those wanting proximity to Somerville, South Medford is ideal. If lakes or the rivers are your preference, consider West Medford. And if you're looking to be close to our bustling commercial centers and the Orange Line, Wellington offers that convenience, with access to Boston just a stone's throw away. Hillside has the Green Line Extension and the beautiful Tufts campus a few blocks away. There's a slice of Medford to suit everyone's needs.


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