Admissions associate and middle school advisor Marcus Nelson is soon to complete his term on the Needham Select Board, a historic accomplishment as the first person of color to serve in this capacity. As a member of the Select Board, Mr. Nelson played an important role of service for the town of Needham, as the Select Board’s responsibilities include establishing policies and town-wide goals, appointing town committees, and representing the interests of the town in business dealings, legal affairs, and inter-governmental cooperation.

As his three-year term comes to an end, Mr. Nelson has determined, for various reasons, not to seek re-election. Earlier this month, Mr. Nelson shared his experience and perspective with the Needham Observer.

In the conversation, Mr. Nelson shared the influences that initially urged him to run for the office back in 2020, which included the unnecessary killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Searching for a way to make a tangible difference, Mr. Nelson decided to start in his own town.

“I felt like running for Select Board was something that I could do that would not really benefit me, but to benefit whoever comes after me,” Mr. Nelson explained to the Observer. “The people, the kids— to see somebody like me in a seat like that, serving a town that predominantly doesn’t look like them.”

The results of the election showed how powerfully this need was felt by the community.

“It was so exciting to see it take off, getting people excited for something they’d never paid attention to,” said Mr. Nelson. “It sparked an interest and brought people from all different age groups.

As the first person of color to ever serve on the Needham Select Board, Mr. Nelson brought a necessarily different perspective and experience to the body, which of course brought with it its own challenges and trials. Mr. Nelson reflects upon how he initially struggled with the time it took to get things done, as well as with the unending cacophony of different agendas.

“There was a lot of learning and growth and understanding that everybody has opinions and they matter to them,” Mr. Nelson recalls, “but I had to figure out which ones to take. Once I stopped letting the job try to consume me, I took a step back. I realized you don’t have to be the best at everything, but be willing to collaborate with as many people and work with as many people as possible.”

Now, with his term coming to an end, Mr. Nelson is able to reflect on what he’s learned over the last three years, and to consider his hopes for what lies ahead.

“More than anything, I’m always aware of being almost the only black person in every room that I’ve been in when decisions have been made,” says Mr. Nelson, “but I hope I’m not the last to be in these rooms or to be elected and help make decisions that are pushing our town to be something greater than it’s ever been.”

Considering what he hopes others have taken away from time in the role, Mr. Nelson expressed his hopes that he was able to demonstrate his care and empathy for them as individuals, and their own needs and experiences.

“At the core of who I am, I think I’m a very decent human,” Mr. Nelson says. “I’m a work in progress, but I put other people first and I hope people felt that the way that I treated them and the way that I made them feel was never less than the most important person in that room, when they were talking about what was important to them.”

We’re incredibly proud of the important work accomplished by Mr. Nelson, both within the halls of our school and beyond. From his work sharing the DCD experience with prospective families as an admissions associate, to the connections he builds with students as a Grade 8 advisor, Mr. Nelson brings positivity, passion, encouragement, and empathy to each and every interaction he shares.

Please join us in congratulating Marcus Nelson for his historic service on the Needham Select Board!