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Law school alumnus elected to Boston City Council

Josh Zakim, an alumnus of Northeastern’s School of Law and the son of a well-known religious and civil rights leader, has been elected to represent District 8 in the Boston City Council.

Zakim, who graduated from the law school in 2009, defeated Michael Nichols in the Nov. 5 city election. Zakim received about 52 percent of the vote to Nichols’ 47 percent. District 8 comprises Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway-Kenmore, Mission Hill, and the West End.

“This is a new time in the city,” Zakim said in a phone interview last Thursday. “With a new mayor for the first time in 20 years, this is a great opportunity to help shape the future of Boston.”

Zakim will officially start his new job in January. His list of to-dos includes making rent in his district more affordable and finding a balance between development and neighborhood needs.

“Rising rent costs is an issue across the city, but in areas like Mission Hill and Fenway it’s forcing people and families to move away,” he said. “I want to help make Boston a city that provides opportunities and is accessible to everyone.”

Although this is Zakim’s first foray into politics, public service runs in his family. His father, Leonard Zakim, was a religious and civil rights leader who served as the director of the New England region of the Anti-Defamation League. The iconic Zakim Bridge is named for Leonard, who died of bone marrow cancer in 1999.

Zakim said he came to Northeastern in part because of the co-op program, the cornerstone of the university’s experiential learning model. He was also impressed with the law school’s focus on public interest.

“Northeastern continues to be a leading law school,” Zakim noted. “And whether graduates go into the private or public sector, they are generally going into their legal career to do good.”

After graduating law school, Zakim worked for the Greater Boston Legal Services and represented families that were at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. He also worked in the public finance group at Mintz Levin, a Boston-based law firm.

“Public service and social economic justice have always been important to me,” Zakim explained. “The district has had such able representation by Michael Ross, and I thought it was important we have someone at City Hall with similar values.”

Ross, who was elected to the city council in 2000, was one of four city councilors to give up their seats this year in order to run for mayor. This election marked the first in two decades that Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s name was not on the ballot.