Senator Patricia Jehlen was first elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 2005. She represents the Second Middlesex district, which includes Medford, Somerville, Winchester, and Cambridge. She is Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Senate Chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs, Vice Chair of the Committee on Education, and Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Innovative and Alternative Education. She also serves on the Committees on Housing and the Judiciary.
The Senator co-chairs the LGBT Aging Commission and the Elder Economic Security Commission. She is also a member of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Commission, the Criminal Justice Commission, and the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
Her top legislative priorities are equitable and excellent education, universal and affordable health care, and jobs with decent wages and benefits, including earned sick time. In the area of elder services, her priority making sure that seniors of all income levels can find housing and services that meet their needs, whether in the community or in institutions.
Senator Jehlen lives in Somerville with her husband, Alain. She has three children and two grandchildren. The Jehlens have three children, who all graduated from Somerville High School. Nick is a graphic designer and consultant with The Action Mill. Peter, a program manager for medical trials, lives near Magoun Square with his wife Sarah Shugars. Wendy, a dancer/choreographer and ASL interpreter, lives with the Jehlens and her daughters Anika and Kayala.
Pat was born in Austin Texas, and moved to Massachusetts at the age of 6. Her father, Paul Deats, was a Methodist minister and professor of social ethics at the Boston University School of Theology. Her mother, Ruth, was a community activist, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday School teacher/trainer. Together they formed one of the first Parkinsons’ Support Groups. Jehlen had two sisters, Carolyn and Fran, and a brother Randy. She has a niece and nephew, Kathleen and Chris Poe.
Pat’s favorite extracurricular activity is teaching stilting and tumbling-for-two with the OPENAIR Circus, which she helped start over 25 years ago.
Jehlen, a former history teacher and VISTA volunteer, graduated from Swarthmore College, received a Masters degree in teaching from Harvard University, and completed Master's course work in history at University of Massachusetts Boston. From 1976 to 1991, she served on the Somerville School Committee, as chairman in 1980 and 1988. She was among the founders of the CHOICE program, a public school alternative elementary program, which is has continued and expanded for almost 30 years. On the state level, she helped found the Council for Fair School Finance, which brought the successful lawsuit which led to the education reform of 1993, and brought hundreds of millions of dollars in new state aid to communities.
Jehlen served from 1991 to 2005 in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where she served as Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus, Co-Chairman of the Progressive Legislator's Group (PLG), Co-Chairman of the Elder Caucus, and Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Elder Affairs. Among her successful legislation were bills to increase literacy for blind people, ensure the rights of people living with mental illness, and provide compensation for the wrongfully convicted. She helped lead the fight to increase the minimum wage, and to target tax cuts to working families by increasing the earned income tax credit and child care credit, and increasing the senior circuit breaker.