State Senator Karen E. Spilka
2nd Middlesex and Norfolk
Ashland • Framingham
Franklin • Holliston
Hopkinton • Medway • Natick
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.
First elected to the House of Representatives in a special election in the fall of 2001, Senator Spilka served three years in the House before her election to the Senate. In January 2005, she was officially sworn in as the State Senator for the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway and Natick in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts.
In January 2015, Senator Spilka was appointed by Senate President Stan Rosenberg to serve as Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, the committee that oversees the budget and finances of the Commonwealth. Senator Spilka previously served in Senate President Therese Murray’s leadership team as Assistant Majority Whip and then Majority Whip.
Prior to being appointed as Assistant Majority Whip, Senator Spilka served as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. During this time, Senator Spilka oversaw the passage of an economic development reform law that revolutionizes the way the state does business, increases access to capital for small businesses and makes it easier for businesses to get the help they need from the state to start or grow here. This law streamlined state and quasi-public agencies and increased transparency by requiring regular performance management reviews of these organizations. This law also created the Mass Marketing Partnership, to better market Massachusetts to businesses both within the United States and abroad to attract global businesses. In addition, this law created the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau to promote the cultural and natural attractions of this growing and vibrant region.
As Chair, Senator Spilka also oversaw the passage of important legislation on clean energy and broadband access expansion. In 2009, she conducted a statewide listening tour to hear the concerns of businesses and workers. Many of the ideas discussed in these sessions were included in the economic development reform bill. In 2012, as Senate Chair of the Jobs Creation Commission, charged with examining the health of the Massachusetts economy and recommending ways to create and keep good jobs in the state, she led another statewide listening tour to solicit input and ideas.
Senator Spilka provides leadership in a number of other areas, including as Senate Chair of the Tech Hub Legislative Caucus and the Biotech Legislative Caucus. She has also previously served as Senate Chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, dedicated to advancing women in elected positions. In addition, Senator Spilka is committed to the programs and services needed to ensure a robust workforce trained for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. As a result, she served on the Goddard Council for STEM Education in 2008 and the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council in 2011.
Senator Spilka was named the first Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities when she entered the Senate in 2005. In this role, she continued her strong and vocal advocacy on concerns related to child welfare and self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.
Prior to becoming a legislator, Senator Spilka was in private practice as an arbitrator and mediator, specializing in labor and employment law and community and court mediation. In addition, she has been a facilitator and fact finder in disputes in the public and private sectors, as well as a trainer of adult mediation and school-based peer mediation programs, collaborative-based collective bargaining and conflict resolution strategies. She has also previously worked as a labor and employment attorney on behalf of employees, unions, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and the Commonwealth.
Senator Spilka has received considerable recognition for her public service, including being named to the National Honor Roll of State Legislators and appointment to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Human Services and Welfare Committee for 2007–2008. Other awards include the MetroWest Center for Independent Living’s First Annual Legislator of the Year Award in 2012, the 2012 Legislator of the Year Award from Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong, the 2012 Leadership Award from the Department of Developmental Services Citizens Advisory Boards, the 2012 Biotechnology Industry Organization’s State Legislator of the Year Award, the 2012 Children’s Choice Award from the Children’s League of Massachusetts, the 2011 ATHENA Award from the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, the Donald R. Wheeler Award for Public Sector Leadership from the 495/MetroWest Partnership, 2010 Legislator of the Year Award by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, 2009 Health Information Management Association’s Legislator of the Year Award, the Massachusetts Hospital Association’s 1st annual Legislator of the Year Award in 2008, the 2007 Legislative Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations, the 2007 Legislator of the Year Award from the Arc of Massachusetts, the 2006 Legislative Leadership Award from the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, the 2006 Regional Spirit Award from the MetroWest Growth Management Committee, and Advocates, Inc.’s 2006 Medal of Honor.
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.
Click here to watch a November 2015 interview with Senator Spilka.