Julian Cyr

Cape Cod Life  /  Annual Life 2020 /

Writer: Allyson Plessner

State Senator  \\  Cape native dedicated to serving his community.

“What is it like being a state senator? It feels a lot like waiting on tables. That’s a skill I use every single day,” says Julian Cyr. A Truro native, Cyr spent many summers working at Adrian’s restaurant, which his family owned and operated for 28 years—a true feat in any location, but particularly for the quiet town of Truro. “Waiting tables, there’s all sorts of people who come through the door on a daily basis. I learned to be compassionate and helpful. My job today isn’t necessarily about having a fancy education. It’s hospitality,” explains Cyr who is currently in his first term as the state senator for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.  

As a student at Nauset High School, Cyr first discovered a love for activism when his choir program was vulnerable. Significant federal and state budget cuts led to a sizable budget gap in the Nauset school district, meaning that without a proposition 2 ½ override—basically a vote by the town to raise the tax levy—Nauset would eliminate 40 teaching positions, including Cyr’s choir teacher. “I had never done anything political before. My family’s opinionated but was never involved in politics,” he laughs. “But, the music program meant so much to me, so I organized a campaign with other students to tell taxpayers what would be lost in quality education if the override failed. That was the first time that I realized that I could step out into my community and create change,” he says. 

“It was a long time until I saw myself as a candidate for office,” continues Cyr, “but it did help me realize I wanted to work in public service.” At New York University, Cyr took a lot of graduate level coursework in public policy, and his studies took him all the way to D.C. as an intern for the Obama administration. “I always gravitated back to Truro though. One, because my family was there but also because I had to make money at the restaurant in the summers to afford living in New York City and Washington D.C.,” he jokes. “But beyond that, I’ve always felt a real attraction and pull toward the Cape.”

Cyr joined the Senate as the representative for the Cape and Islands in 2016. “For me, running for office came from a place of thinking; if Cape Codders of my generation aren’t involved in the future of this place, then this place isn’t going to have a future,” he explains. “Our communities are eroding a heck of a lot faster than what the ocean is doing to the coastline.” In that same vein, Cyr has used his platform to express passionate advocacy for housing reform across the Cape and Islands. “We have become a profoundly unaffordable place,” explains Cyr. “We need the younger generation invested and involved in the region to avoid it becoming a sandspit for only the most wealthy among us—a place that’s vibrant only a few months out of the year.”

“I’m heartened by what I see,” says Cyr.  “There are a lot of ways to be involved, and I see that in my best friend’s decision to move home to Truro with her husband to become a speech and language pathologist at Orleans Elementary School; I see that in my sister and sister-in-law who have moved back to the Cape to raise their family; I see that in the vibrancy of folks engaged with Cape Cod Young Professionals and other entities; I see that in friends of mine in Provincetown who work in hospitality and are spending their first winters out here because they love the Cape.”

The climate of the landscape is certainly changing—more than simply in terms of weather. A generation ago, it was not unusual for “washashores” to make a life on the Cape and Islands, but as the years go on, finding that life here is something that has become acutely harder to do. As Cyr puts it, the housing crisis is the number one issue when it comes to the Cape’s economy, workforce, schools, and diversity within communities. It is certainly possible to make a good life here, but the number one barrier is affordable housing, and in Cyr’s opinion it’s a problem that we can—and in fact, must—tackle. “As we enter this new decade, we’re going to have to make tough decisions; decisions that we thought we would be making in the next 50 years are things that we actually need to get serious about now,” says Cyr. ”We have the ability to solve this problem. We just need to have the guts to do it.”

For Cyr, the best part of his job is getting to live in the place he loves. Growing up in a small, tight-knit community is something that he feels has shaped him both as a person and a leader. “To be considered a visionary is amazing. I put a lot of effort into engaging with my community, so to be seen as more than just a political operative is important to me. More than that, I’m in a very traditional leadership role, and I think that it’s also important that we remember to embrace and celebrate a broad definition of the term visionary,” says Cyr. As an LGBTQ representative and a strong supporter of the Cape’s communities of color, inclusivity is an attitude that Cyr brings to the table in every aspect of his role as senator. “In a world where we have never been more connected,” explains Cyr, “there are still people who have never felt more isolated. To feel really connected to a community, like you so often do on the Cape…that’s powerful.”

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Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.