2020 Vision: A Sit Down with Sabina Matos

The Providence City Council President and all-around rising star is our own version of Kamala Harris: an achiever, mom, and politician with an outlook on the power of public service

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Days after Democratic presidential candidate and former VP Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, Providence City Council President Sabina Matos was at home with her husband and two children, Diego and Annmarie. Matos was participating in an online fundraiser for the Democratic duo when her ten-year-old daughter entered the room to see what Mom was up to. When she spotted Harris on the computer screen and Matos explained who she was, Annmarie’s jaw dropped. “Mommy, she looks just like you!”

The significance of the moment was not lost on Matos, and her daughter’s interest in the campaign has not waned. When Matos bought her daughter 2020 campaign action figures, Annmarie, who has already expressed an interest in politics, noted positively that they “look like they speak a second language.” Her son Diego is also considering following in the family tradition of public service: he might like to be a firefighter.

Matos was 20 when she and her sister and parents moved here from the Dominican Republic. Matos did not speak English. Her parents were eager for their daughters to succeed and encouraged them to go to college. Unlike her sister, Matos was never sure, even from a young age, what she wanted to do. “My sister always had an answer for ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Matos says. “My answer to that question was always ‘Everything.’”

Eventually, Matos graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in communications and public relations. She worked locally for a Spanish radio station and continued to stay connected to the Latino community. In 2010, she had the opportunity to run for a Providence City Council seat – and won. In 2019, she was sworn in as president. The list of awards, affiliations, and honors bestowed upon her are too long to list. When asked if she might eventually consider a run for Providence mayor, her answer is refreshingly straightforward: “Yes. Yes, I would.”

Until then, Matos is entrenched in the business of city government. “We are problem solvers,” she says of the Council, which she wants to be better informed about differing viewpoints, encourage “new blood” to run for office, and take a closer look in the rearview mirror at the consequences – good and bad – of their decision-making.

Matos admits it’s not always easy juggling family life with work, and she credits her parents and husband Patrick for their resounding support. “It’s not easy. Everyone talks about the ‘work and life balance.’ There is no balance. Every day is different. You have to be ready to pivot, to rely on your support network, to ask for help.” At the end of the day, she says, “You do what you can. If you’re criticized but you know you had the best of intentions, that’s what matters most.”

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