Through hard work, a keen ability to navigate complex issues, and a demonstrated commitment to advocating for her constituents, Senator Karen E. Spilka has established herself as a respected leader in state government.
Having served three years in the House of Representatives before becoming State Senator in 2005, Karen has produced tremendous results through her tireless advocacy for equity in education funding, investment in economic development, and increased resources for the MetroWest.
Currently, Karen is the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and a member of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Karen brings unique skills as a social worker, attorney, small business owner, arbitrator and mediator, and community activist to build consensus and solve problems as Senator.
As an arbitrator and mediator, Karen specialized in labor and employment law as well as community and court mediation. She also worked as a labor and employment attorney on behalf of employees, unions, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), and the Commonwealth.
Karen has a long standing and wide ranging commitment to community activism. She served as Chair of Ashland’s Personnel Board and Fiscal Affairs Committee, and Vice Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Committee before becoming Chair of the Ashland School Committee. Her leadership on education compelled her to found the Chapter 70 Roundtable, a statewide coalition to fight for equity, adequacy and predictability to education aid in suburban towns. She continues to be a member of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce and is on the Board of the 495/Metrowest Partnership.
Prior to becoming Chair of Economic Development, Karen was named the first Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. In this role, she continued her strong and vocal advocacy on concerns—such as child safety and self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities—that have been important to her since her days as social worker.
Senator Spilka is a graduate of Northeastern Law School and holds a B.S. from Cornell University. She has been married for over twenty years to Joel S. Loitherstein, an environmental engineer, and has three children and three dogs.
Karen Spilka is a leader on Beacon Hill and fought for passage of groundbreaking legislation that has major impact on the 2nd Middlesex & Norfolk district and the Commonwealth. Below are highlights of her recent accomplishments:
2009–Present: Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies
- Authored a new economic development reform law that revolutionizes the way the state does business by restructuring the current economic development model through streamlining competing agencies and developing a cohesive, business-friendly approach and increasing access to capital for small businesses so they can hire more workers
- Created the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau
- Served as Senate Chair of the Biotech Legislative Caucus, connecting leaders in this fast-growing sector of the Massachusetts economy with legislators
- Passed the education reform bill, which allowed Massachusetts to successfully compete for $250 million in Race to the Top Funds, and included an adequacy study that will determine appropriate funding levels for a quality public school education
- Appointed to the Governor’s Council on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education, charged with crafting policy that will prepare students for 21st century careers
- Guided the consolidation of the Clean Energy Center, ensuring significant protections to ensure the continued appropriate use of ratepayer funds for the promotion of renewable energy in the Commonwealth
- Supported the passage of a bill that allows Framingham State College to become Framingham State University
- Served as Senate Chair of the MetroWest Legislative Caucus
2005–2008: Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities
- Authored legislation that created the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority and allowed Medway and Franklin to join the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority—creating a public bus service for the region for the first time
- Successfully passed Jenny’s Law in memory of a young mother from Ashland, taking on the life insurance industry to make it harder for companies to deny claims on a technicality
- Championed a bill that updates the child abuse, neglect and foster care laws in Massachusetts, creating an Office of the Child Advocate, changing the name of the Department of Social Services to the Department of Children and Families, and waiving tuition and fees at public colleges for children in foster care
- Changed the name of the Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services
2001–2004: Member, House of Representatives
- Created the Mentoring Program for the Women’s Legislative Caucus
- Was instrumental in changing the Chapter 70 funding formula to make it more equitable, predictable and easy to understand
Karen has received awards from the following organizations:
- MetroWest YMCA Board Member Recognition
- Pillar of Justice Award, South MiddleSex Legal Services
- MetroSouth/West Regional Employment Board
- Friends of Children Award, Framingham DSS Area Office and Area Board
- Reach Out and Read
- Legislator of the Year, Massachusetts Association of School Committees
- Legislator of the Year, Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers
- Hero Standing Strong, Advocates Inc.
- Regional Spirit Award, MetroWest Growth Management Committee
- Legislator Leadership Award, MetroWest Chamber of Commerce
- Global Warming Leadership Award, MASSPRIG
- Outstanding Leadership Award, Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Advisory Committee
- Respects from Marathon, Mayor of Marathon, Greece
- Leadership Excellence Award, Association for Commuter Transportation (Patriots Chapter)
- Legislator of the Year, Provider’s Council
- Certificate of Appreciation, Mass C-Pass
- Reading Advocate Award, Massachusetts Reading Association
- Legislative Achievement Award, Massachusetts Association of the Jewish Federation
- Certificate of Appreciation, Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Department of Mental Health
- TIC Network
- Oral Health Hero Award, Community Health Coalition of MetroWest
- Arc of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council
- Service at Cushing Memorial in Framingham
- Legislator of the Year, National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Commissioner’s Exemplar Award, Dept. of Developmental Services
- Legislator of the Year Award, Massachusetts Hospital Association
- Children’s Mental Health Champion Award, Parent/Professional Advocacy League