By Paul Tennant
---- — Former state Rep. Barbara L’Italien of Andover has declared her candidacy for the 2nd Essex and Middlesex Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barry Finegold, who is running for state treasurer.
L’Italien, a member of the School Committee, served in the House for eight years, starting in 2003. A Democrat, she represented the 18th Essex District that included parts of Andover, North Andover, Boxford and Georgetown.
She was defeated for re-election in 2010 by Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover. Two years later, L’Italien again ran against Lyons, but was not successful.
“I have been contacted by many people throughout the district who have urged me to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Finegold,” L’Italien said in a release.
“I am both humbled and energized by their confidence and support. The people of Andover, Dracut, Lawrence and Tewksbury have been well served by senators like Pat McGovern, John O’Brien, Sue Tucker and Barry Finegold and I look forward to continuing their tradition of strong and effective leadership.”
Before she was first elected to the House in 2002, L’Italien was employed as a social worker at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and worked for the Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline and West Suburban Elder Services.
As a state representative, she advocated for improved elder services.
She said she initiated Caring Homes, a community-based program providing relief for families to keep seniors in their homes instead of being placed in nursing homes. She also said she was the force behind the enactment of the “Choices” law that provides expanded care for seniors through a Medicaid waiver.
In addition, L’Italien said she worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass a wide range of bills protecting developmentally disabled children, including comprehensive health insurance and Medicaid waivers for children with autism.
She also founded the Autism Commission — of which she has served as chairwoman since 2010 — and initiated the creation of the Autism Division of the state Department of Developmental Services.
“My work on behalf of people with autism has enabled families to receive the behavioral and communication supports necessary to maximize their potential and to lessen the long-term costs of education and care,” L’Italien said. “The Autism Commission recommendations look for better coordination among state agencies to increase the quality of service being delivered.”
After leaving the Legislature in 2011, L’Italien coordinated the Small Business Banking Partnership in the state treasurer’s office, which placed state money into community banks for small business loans.
L’Italien currently works as director of government affairs for Arc of Massachusetts, an organization that advocates for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She resides in town with her husband of 27 years, Kevin Hall; four children, Rudy, Allie, Samantha and Andrew; and her mother, Claire Sullivan L’Italien.
Andover Board of Selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli also has announced his candidacy for the Senate seat on the Republican side of the ballot.