Bostonia – Boston University
In West Palm Beach, they still call her the mayor.
But the earthy, plainspoken Lois Frankel, a familiar face on the art deco boulevards of the city she governed for eight years, is in the big leagues now. She is serving her second term as the US representative from Florida’s 22nd congressional district. It is the most visible—and arguably the most influential—position Frankel (CAS’70) has held in a distinguished public service career spanning more than three decades.
In 1986, she won the first of seven terms in the Florida House of Representatives. She went on to become the first woman minority leader in Florida history, in 1995. As mayor of West Palm Beach from 2003 to 2011, Frankel led efforts to expand the local marine industry and oversaw the revitalization of the city’s downtown district. A year after leaving the mayor’s office, she was elected to Congress, representing the newly redrawn 22nd district, defeating Republican Adam Hasner by a 10 percent edge. She replaced US Representative Allen West, a hawkish anti-Obama Republican, former Army lieutenant colonel, and Tea Party favorite.
“Lois is one of those rare members of Congress who is exactly who she is no matter where she is or who she’s with, whether it’s with a head of state, the president of the United States, or a constituent,” says congressional colleague Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.). “She takes her job very seriously, but never herself.”
An unapologetic liberal, Frankel has channeled her youthful left-wing zeal into a career as a tireless advocate for women, children, military veterans, and people with AIDS.
She first became interested in politics as an undergraduate at BU, where she majored in psychology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Frankel became active in student government. An outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, she jokes that she “majored in protests” while a BU student.