the 17th Middlesex District
Representative Vanna Howard has been a public servant for almost three decades. She was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the 17th Middlesex District in 2020 and became the first woman of Khmer (Cambodian) descent to be elected a state legislator in the United States. She is a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia, where both of her maternal grandparents, three younger siblings, and father died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975-1979. She resettled in the U.S. at age 11 after having spent more than 2 years in a Thai refugee camp. As a child refugee who spoke no English, she overcame tremendous adversity confronted with racism, physical abuse, and homelessness. She understands firsthand the challenges and struggles face by many. Since then, she met all those challenges, and beat them. She went on to earn a college degree, get married and raised her family here. For 12 years, she worked in the Office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, first as Constituent Services Representative and then as Greater Lowell Regional Director, to connect constituents to services and to address various federal issues such as immigration, housing, and small business. Prior to her work with Congresswoman Tsongas, she was employed for more than 12 years with the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office Superior Court Trial Team and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in the Homicide Division. Then most recently as the Chief of External and Government Relations with Lowell Community Health Center. She also served on numerous non-profit boards and commissions including the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Lowell Housing Authority, Mill City Grows, Ironstone Farm, Project LEARN, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Assoc, Acre Family Childcare, the MA Asian American Commission, to name a few. In 2019, Vanna was honored by the International Institute of New England as one of the 100 honorees as the most influential advocates, trailblazers, and leaders from Lowell’s vibrant immigrant community. In 2018 she received an Unsung Hero Award from the Cambodian Mutual Association of Greater Lowell. She also received the Lowell Sun Salute to Women in Our Region in 2015 and Congressman John Joseph Moakley Award Finalist for Exemplary Public Service in 2013.
Vanna resides in downtown Lowell with her husband and two children and their dog, Buster.
Vanna received her education from Revere High School, Middlesex Community College, University of Massachusetts Boston and Lowell.