An aerial view of Bangor. Credit: Kevin Bennett / BDN

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Dina Yacoubagha is a candidate for Bangor City Council.

My family’s household in the coastal Mediterranean city in Syria where I was born and raised was a bustling “command center” for both my parents. Despite having full careers and an active family of five children, my mom and dad were prominent leaders in our city. They worked together for years in their separate professions to address the city’s most complicated issues.

My parents loved our city. I think it meant home to them mostly because of the network of people around them, their family, friends and neighbors. They felt a strong sense of community. The city needed their leadership, and they responded.

With an English-literature degree, mom taught for 25 years and served as principal of the local middle-high school. She also was a local director of the General Union of Syrian Women, the national women’s political organization. Even now, 30 years after her passing, she is remembered for being a good listener and for her ability to affect change.

My father, who died from COVID-19 this summer in Turkey, had a degree in economics and was an auditor for several government agencies. He also was mayor of our city for two terms, dealing with all the common city problems of municipal budgets, roads and sewers, fire department, etc. He served our city conscientiously and always led with integrity.

Maine was meant to be a temporary home when my family moved here 14 years ago. I first came to the U.S. to continue my education in linguistics in 1997. My husband, an anesthesiologist, and I moved around quite a bit, even living in New Brunswick before settling in Bangor.

The real change for me came when I attended the 2013 annual meeting of Food AND Medicine, the local non-profit that works to address poverty. I saw the extent of the age-old obstacles that Bangor residents still struggle with. I left that meeting with a different mindset; I wanted to be part of Bangor’s conversation about those problems, as well as part of its solutions.

I threw myself into supporting my new home town. I returned to graduate school and earned my master’s degree in social work from the University of Maine. I have continued my work with Food AND Medicine and its affiliate, Faith Linking in Action, Partners for Peace, the Wilson Center, the Olympia Snowe Institute and the Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition.

My experiences have changed the way I once thought about Bangor. It has been easy to make friends and build relationships, and I feel grounded here. I have a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt in any other place in the U.S. The support I have received inspires me to work even harder on behalf of this city.

When I told my dad in May that I was running for the Bangor City Council, he was elated. He visited us here several times. He said he thought the people here were warm and outgoing. He would have enjoyed hearing the details about my campaign visits through Bangor’s neighborhoods. I’m now running my campaign without him as my sounding board and mentor, but I know that this is the best possible way for me to honor his memory.

This campaign not only is a public one, but also a personal one. Bangor is a city that I now wholeheartedly call my home. We all have good reason to be proud with what we have accomplished here, even in a time of challenge. We still have serious, unmet needs in our community, including poverty and unemployment, a lack of adequate housing, transportation, infrastructure and racism. I believe, however, that because we embrace the quality of being “a home town,” we can make our city a welcoming, inclusive place for all.

I ask for the opportunity to help make that so as a Bangor city councilor.