SHIRLEY -- Andree Lourdes Jean Jacques, one of two selectmen candidates in the upcoming election, has been on a mission to give back to her adopted country ever since she came here from Haiti in 1995.
"It was unstable in my home country ... so I decided to move on with my life in the United States," she said. "Fortunately for me, the door was open."
"As a foreigner, I wanted to give back," she said, and over the past couple of decades found ways to do her part in the communities she's live in, from the Boston area, where she first settled, to her current home in Shirley, where she bought a house four years ago.
Along the way, she got an education, she said, earning an associate's degree from Roxbury Community College and a bachelor's in business from the University of Phoenix. She works as an accountant now.
Jean Jacques said her business education allows her to "give back more" as a member of the Finance Committee. And she's acutely aware of the issues she'd be facing as a selectman, if elected, she said.
Problems that recently surfaced due to past accounting practices, for example. "We need to watch...more closely," she said.
She also believes in public education.
Jean Jacques got involved with local schools when she served on a Head Start board in the Boston area. The eldest of her two daughters, now a 20-year old college student, was served by the program as a child, she said. Her younger daughter, age 7, attends Lura A. White Elementary School in Shirley.
Jean Jacques is also active in the Catholic Church, serving on a board that advocates for Haitian parishioners in the diocese.
Commitment to giving back is one reason she's running for selectman, she said, but it's also about being part of the community and helping out in her new home town. "It's a great place to live," she said.
If she wins, Jean Jacques said she'll relinquish her fincom seat; otherwise, she aims to continue.
Noting the $40,000 the town has spent so far for a consultant to help straighten out the books, Jean Jacques said town officials must be more pro-active in the future. Not that it can't or won't happen again, but it shouldn't. And they can try to avoid it. "If you don't try, it's not going to happen," she said.