Everyone in Milton seems to know Sen. Brian Joyce
MILTON – Everyone in Milton knows Sen. Brian A. Joyce, or it at least seems that way.
Sitting outside the Plate, a local restaurant where he is a Friday-morning regular, Joyce wore a navy jacket over a light blue shirt to keep out the chill. Between bites of what he claimed is “the best egg sandwich in Massachusetts,” seven or eight passers-by stopped to say hello. A few others in cars beeped and waved as they passed.
Joyce wasn’t always as well-known. His first experience in politics was as a relative newcomer in the town that he now calls home, where he and his wife, Mary, are raising five children.
It was 1978, and Joyce, 16, was working hard on his father, Gerry’s, campaign for state representative.
“He took on a townie who had been in office at the time for 12 years and who was thought to be unbeatable,” Joyce said. “We were relative newcomers, having just moved in in the early 1960s, when I was a baby.”
Joyce said his family tried to outwork his father’s opponent on campaign budget of about $900. They did it by knocking on every door in Milton and north Randolph.
“We were winning until the last precinct came in, and my dad ended up losing by 179 votes out of about 13,000 cast,” Joyce said. “I was crushed, but also hooked. It was just such an incredible experience at an impressionable age for me.”
Joyce said his father always spoke up for what is right, and set a strong example for his son. He recalled going with his father to a town meeting where voters were discussing a ban on home “for sale” signs. Joyce’s father opposed the ban, saying it was masking an attempt to discriminate against certain home buyers.
“In my mind’s eye, my dad was like Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and I was surely as proud of him as the character Scout was in that book,” Joyce said.
Years later, Joyce’s first campaign for public office was influenced by a similar event.
Driving home from work, Joyce witnessed bulldozers tearing down basketball courts in Kelly Field, the result of residents’ suggestions that the kids playing basketball there were from out of town.
Joyce, who thought the complaints were racially motivated, decided to run for parks commissioner, and he won.
In 1996, the same year he opened his law practice, he won a state representative seat, defeating the incumbent who defeated Joyce’s father 18 years earlier.
He won a Senate seat shortly after and has held it for 11 terms. He was unopposed in the November election.
Joyce said he often works for people who live on the margins of life. As a young senator he sponsored the “Equal Choice” bill, which allowed elderly residents to stay in their homes by providing state funding for in-home health care equal to that given for care in a nursing home.
For over a dozen years now, Joyce has also tried to pass legislation to stop the practice of using electric shock therapy, known as “aversive therapy,” at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton.
“He has been a passionate advocate for eliminating that practice in the commonwealth,” said Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst.
Rosenberg, who has known Joyce for years, describes the senator as a well-respected colleague able to get to the heart of a problem and build coalitions to solve it.
“He was just relentless in pushing for really dynamic, new policy directives that would also be cost-effective,” Rosenberg said. “He was in my office at Ways and Means, constantly bringing new ideas, bringing policy options, and bringing creative solutions.”
Joyce plans to file legislation in January that would provide commercial and industrial property owners with low-cost financing to retrofit their buildings and make them more energy-efficient.
He expects the legislation will create 10,000 new jobs across Massachusetts, mostly in the building and construction trades, which have been hit hard by the recession.
“There has a been a lot of focus in recent years on clean and alternative forms of energy,” Joyce said. “In reality, we get far more bang for our buck in reducing our energy consumption.”