Russell was born on August 17, 1969 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. His parents were never married, and his father moved to Boston to attend Tufts after his high school graduation. His mother remained in Mound Bayou, and as a consequence, Russell spent many school years in Mississippi and summers in Mattapan. Several of Russell’s school years were spent in Boston, where he graduated from Thompson Middle School and Hyde Park High School. He remained in Boston for college and obtained a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University in 1992 and later went on to earn his MBA from Northeastern in 2000. From 1994 to 2002, Russell worked at Brooks PRI Automation, a $400 million manufacturer of robotics in Chelmsford. He started as an engineer and climbed the ladder into management, overseeing multimillion-dollar projects, increasing efficiency, and improving the entire sales and manufacturing processes. Working at Brooks taught Russell the importance of investing wisely, seeking connections between disparate issues, and working as both a team player and a leader to get the job done. Currently, Russell works as a Certified Financial Planner, where he helps hundreds of families reach their life dreams. Russell finds this job incredibly rewarding: “Helping people never feels like work!” It’s a job that requires utmost honesty and responsibility as well as an ability to understand and appreciate families’ individual needs. Working as a financial advisor has enabled Russell to serve many members of our community—and some of his clients have even joined this campaign. Russell also owned and operated a small video store in Brookline that he closed in 2004. Being a small business owner taught Russell valuable lessons over the years. He understands how to turn challenges into opportunities (he increased sales 35% in a declining industry) and knows what it takes to grow a small business and create jobs from the ground-up.
Russell has been an active member of our community. In addition to teaching Sunday school at the Church of Christ in Roxbury, Russell mentored 18 to 22 year-olds, serving as a male role model and coach on the transition from adolescence to adulthood. He has also tutored elementary, high school, and college students on academic and life skills. He is also a Big Brother in Big Brother Big Sisters today. In 2002, Russell started his own neighborhood street cleaning initiative. At first just a small project, Russell’s efforts quickly grew into a community-wide operation that culminated in a partnership with Mayor Menino. To this day, you can see Russell cleaning up his neighborhood every week. Russell is a leader at the citywide level as well. He has chaired the Mattapan Economic Development Initiative (MEDI) since 2007 and was an instrumental force in developing a new set of building codes to draw business to our community. As Chair of MEDI, Russell has advocated for increased city funding for public transportation in our community. He has advocated for a Main Streets designation for Mattapan Square, which will allow our area to tap into city funds to repair storefronts and improve buildings.
Russell is perhaps best known for his efforts to bring the new Blue Hill Avenue library to Mattapan. He chaired the Mattapan Library Task Force and emceed the groundbreaking in 2007. Constructed in 2008, the $16.7 million building was Boston’s first public library constructed since 2001. But Russell understands that it’s much more than a library. The library’s success as a “living room” for our area has convinced him that similar investments are needed to build our community.
Russell and Sheree
One of seventeen brothers and sisters, Sheree Holmes graduated from Emmanuel College in 1988 where she was a Hall of Fame basketball player. She was the assistant women’s basketball coach at Emmanuel College and currently serves as a physical education teacher, boys’ basketball coach, and the athletic director at the Lyndon School. In fact, Sheree comes from a rather famous athletic family: her brother, Dwayne McClain, played on the 1985 championship Villanova basketball team and went on to play in the NBA and internationally. Sheree has spent her entire professional career in education. She taught physical education at the Boston Latin School, and ten of her twenty-two years in the Boston Public School System were spent at the Lee School on Talbot Avenue. As the athletic director at the Lyndon School, Sheree has worked to create nine academic and athletic programs. Russell and Sheree met at church where they both teach Sunday school. They were married in 2008, and they recently celebrated their second anniversary on June 28th.