Worcester City Council Member, District 4
I applied to and was accepted as a VISTA volunteer-Volunteers In Service To America...this was back in '67, it was in the middle of the whole hippie thing. I was very much a part of the whole hippie movement...So I was sent to Chicago, Illinois, community organizing, and was assigned to a store front church. And we were doing outreach into neighborhoods not unlike neighborhoods that I would call Main South.
Barbara Haller was born in the suburbs of in Schenectady, NY in 1948 and currently lives in the Main South neighborhood of Worcester. She got involved with activism and the “hippie movement” at a young age, doing community organizing as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in Chicago during the height of Urban Renewal programs and helping to run a collective farm school for delinquent youth in Arkansas. Moving to Massachusetts in the mid-1970s, Barbara began commuting to Worcester to study engineering, first at the former Worcester Junior on Main Street and later at Worcester Polytechnic. Barbara bought a nightclub on Main Street in 1991 and became involved with the Beacon-Brightly neighborhood revitalization group as a local business owner. Connections through this effort led her into local politics. In 2001, she was elected to serve on the City Council. In this interview, Barbara discusses her struggles as a “black sheep” in her family, as a woman engineer, and as an activist-turned-politician. She discusses her unconventional entry into the political sphere and the challenges of finding her place on the Worcester City Council. She also touches upon her hopes for the Main South neighborhood and the City as a whole.