One wonders at the courage and hope that inspired Felix and Anna Moran and their three children to leave behind their comfortable lives in the Dominican Republic and make a new life in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Felix was an accountant and Anna a nurse. They had a nice house and a comfortable life but they believed in the American Dream and they wanted it for their children.
Representative Frank Moran is grateful that they did. He was eight years old when his family arrived in the city. His parents, unable to speak English at first, took jobs in factories where they worked from five in the morning into the night. “Going from good jobs in the Dominican Republic to manual labor was not easy for them. They did it for us. They thought it would be a better opportunity for their kids.”
The Moran family moved around Lawrence before eventually settling into the Beacon Housing projects. Frank made a lot of good friends and he still is very close to five of his childhood friends that he says are like brothers. “Living in the projects teaches you a lot. It teaches you how to be humble. It teaches you how to survive. And it teaches you how to appreciate the little things in life that so many take for granted.”
“As a kid I always liked to fix stuff. I loved electronics and computers. I was a computer geek – always reading books.” When it came time to choose a high school he chose Greater Lawrence Technical School. “Back then the high tech industry was booming. I heard about this school that had an industrial electronic program. Originally my parents wanted me to go to Lawrence High and concentrate on academic classes,” Moran explained.
“I was a pretty good student and I figured at GLTS I could do both, the academic part and also do the electronics part that I really enjoyed and loved. I would never change that for the world – it was the best decision I ever made.”
Frank’s instructors at the school, Mr. Perrata, Mr. San Germano, Mr. Burke and Mr. Gagnon were instrumental in providing him with direction. When he was a freshman they said “Frank, if you do well in class and get good grades, we can get you a good co-op job so you can learn and continue your studies.”
They kept their promise. Frank started working at Digital Equipment Corporation and secured a full time job there upon graduating from GLTS. A job, and a career, that he really needed.
Frank met his future wife, Wanda Hernandez (1987 GLTS grad), when he was fifteen working at Market Basket. Wanda was a cashier and Frank was a bagger and sparks were in the air. When he was a senior in high school Wanda became pregnant with their son, Frank Jr.
Moran’s parents were terrified. “I was so young and having a kid. But they opened their doors to Wanda and had her come in and live with us. I’m so grateful for that – it allowed me to continue to go to school, to continue working. It’s tough when you’re a kid and you have a young family.”
He held Frank Jr. in his arms on graduation day and never looked back. He accepted a full time job at Digital, enrolled at UMass Lowell and bought a house at the age of 19. “I was reading books on how to buy foreclosed homes when I was a sophomore. I was listening to Tony Robbins – a motivational speaker – and I was learning. I was so young and so driven.”
By the time Moran was 24, his daughter Yahira was born, he was a Production Manager managing 120 employees and a three shift operation. And he had managed to buy a few more buildings. He was hoping to stay in the industry and start his own company when the high tech sector crashed.
“I was doing real estate for so many years, I thought I’d just do that for a while. I got my real estate license and then my broker’s license in 2001 and I ended up really enjoying it.” Today he owns Moran Realty Group.
Politics was never part of the plan. But when Frank’s next door neighbor, Ralph Carrero, ran for school committee he decided to help out. Carrero, also a GLTS grad, spent eighteen years at GLTS as the Coordinator of Student Services and served three consecutive terms on the Lawrence School Committee. “He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met,” says Moran. “A great mentor when it came to politics.”
Frank did not have any interest in running until one night, while watching a city council meeting on TV, he was shocked by what he saw. “There were three or four city council members who were just shouting at each other. There was no decorum at all, a lot of disrespect. And these were the people who were making decisions for me and for my family and for the future of my city.” And so he threw his hat into the ring.
He was named President of the City Council during his second term. “My job as President was to make sure we stay focused on the task at hand, to let people know that the City of Lawrence was open for business, no matter what was happening in that third floor office. I had to make sure the budget was on point, that the tax rates were set properly every year and to make sure that the City was in a good position financially. When I left the City Council we had a $16 million surplus in the budget.”
Moran served a total of three terms on the City Council and then a new position opened up. In 2012, Frank ran for and won the Seventeenth Essex District in the State Legislature, representing the Cities of Lawrence and Methuen and the town of Andover.
“I saw an opportunity to have more representation for our community at the state level and I thought I’d give it a try. Now we have another voice, another advocate, not just for Lawrence but for Methuen and Andover.”
In Moran’s second term he was able to become part of leadership, a feat that normally takes years to accomplish. He credits his relationship with Speaker of the house Robert DeLeo, House Majority leader Ron Mariano, 2nd Assistant Majority Leader Mike Moran and Chairman Jeff Sanchez of the House Ways and Means, whom he also counts as a close friend, for helping him navigate the halls of the Statehouse. Frank is also the Chairman of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.
Representative Moran brings an administrative vision, a willingness to reach across party lines and the temperament of a diplomat to his position. He is most proud of bringing resources to the Greater Lawrence Community.
Frank has been instrumental in guiding legislation through the Statehouse. He has been involved with passing the Language Opportunities for Our Kids Bill; funding for Greater Lawrence’s many non-profit organizations; summer jobs program funding; bringing Chapter 90 resources to the district and the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) among many others.
“We have a $40 billion state budget. I wanted Lawrence to be able to tap into these funds to offset costs in the municipal budget. Every other town in the state has been doing it for years. Lawrence hasn’t. Prime example – we’ve spent over three decades trying to get a police station built. I was able to secure $25 million into the bond bill for it. I believe we’ll get it done. I’m not going away.”
Indeed, Moran insists that he plans on staying in his seat and will not be seeking positions in the Senate or elsewhere. “I look at Brian Dempsey, the former chair of ways and means, and at all the reps who really make a difference and are responsible for fundamental changes in their district.” Their secret, he says, is consistency, which leads to more experience and to more open doors. “If you run for every seat that opens up, instead of looking out for the people and the community you represent, you’re really just looking out for yourself. And that’s not me.”
One project that’s near and dear to Moran’s heart is the renovation of the new athletic facility at GLTS. “Our communities deserve it. Our kids have been playing on dilapidated fields forever and they deserve better. Just because they have an 01841 zip code doesn’t make it ok. The speaker has been hearing this speech from me for years.”
Frank believes that his vision for the city is finally becoming reality. “When you see everyone that’s involved and at the table…you see all these people, and big business owners caring about our community, really willing to help and work together, it’s remarkable. I see light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to economic development and getting really good jobs into the City.”
The Reggie Family is proud that Representative Frank Moran is leading the way.