Mary was raised in a hard-working middle class family and saw first-hand the country’s transition from lifting up hardworking working men and women to blaming them for all our fiscal problems. She watched as her father worked harder and harder while his employers chipped away at his wages and benefits. She watched her mother work hard as a stay-at-home mom and then work even harder when she had to find work outside the home just to help make ends meet . From that moment on she has been asking, “When did it become OK for economic pressures to force both to work two or three jobs and spend less time with their families? When did it become OK for families to have to make the really hard choices to, say, pay their mortgage or pay for their health care?”
After moving to Nashville from New York in 1991, Mary became a small business owner when she opened Lucy’s Record Shop, a record store and all-ages music club. It was the engaged and active kids who came to Lucy’s who renewed her interest in participatory democracy, public responsibility, and civil dialogue. After the shop closed in 1998, Mary began working in the technology sector, first at Telalink, Nashville’s first internet service provider, and then at Sitemason, a website hosting and software development startup. In the year prior to the historic 2008 election, she worked with documentary filmmaker David Earnhardt as co-producer, media specialist, and election integrity advocate for Earnhardt’s timely documentary, UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections.
In 2004, armed with the knowledge that the 18 to 24 year old demographic was the least likely to vote and with an important presidential election looming, Mary organized a voter registration drive aimed at 18-34 year olds that operated throughout the summer and culminated in the “ACT NOW! Lucy’s Record Shop Reunion Concert and Voter Registration Extravaganza” at The Belcourt Theatre in September. Later that fall she began co-hosting the progressive talk show, Liberadio(!) with Mary Mancini & Freddie O’Connell, on Vanderbilt University’s WRVU-FM.
For the past three years, Mary served as the executive director at Tennessee Citizen Action, a public interest and consumer rights organization. with the mission to work to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee. The legislative advocacy work she has done on Capitol Hill supported not only that mission, but Mary’s personal priorities and values as well.
As executive director, Mary has worked with volunteers all over the state to register voters, fight against the mandatory government-issue photo ID to vote requirement, and hold state and county election commissions accountable to their mission of allowing every eligible voter equal access to the ballot box. She has also fought against the assault on working Tennesseans and stood with labor to retain collective bargaining right for teachers and compensation pay for workers injured on the job.
Mary has a Radio & Television Communications Management degree from Syracuse University SI Newhouse School of Public Communications. She has been married to her husband, Kurt Wagner, for 18 years, and together with their three hound dogs, live in the Woodland-In-Waverly historic neighborhood.