Celeste was raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the youngest of seven children of Ann and Dick Friend, who were farmers until right before she was born, and public school teachers after that. She went to UMass Amherst, graduating in 1988, and then moved to New York City. She got her PhD in Philosophy from the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center. Her dissertation was on political theory and focused on the nature of trust between persons and in society. After graduating in 1995, she took a series of full-time but temporary faculty positions in Athens, Ohio, Oxford Ohio, and Cleveland, Ohio. In 2002, she took a teaching job at Hamilton College, where she taught full-time until 2007. By then she had bought a house in South Utica. She fell in love with Utica, and decided to leave the transient academic life behind and instead planted her flag in Utica once and for all.
After a year off from teaching, in 2008 she took a position as an Adjunct Lecturer at SUNY Poly. She teaches two courses every semester: World Religions and Science, Technology, and Human Values.
Having taken silversmithing classes at MWPAI, she then launched a small business designing, producing, and marketing her own line of sterling silver jewelry. Her business was very successful and supported her for years, taking her on the road from Vermont to Virginia, Buffalo to Connecticut. Although the combination of being elected to the Common Council and the pandemic interrupted her travelling to shows in order to sell her jewelry, she continues to be a member of Cazenovia Artisans, a cooperative art gallery in Cazenovia, NY.
In 2016, she was hired as the Executive Director of Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival. Colorscape is an annual two-day arts festival in Norwich, NY and is widely considered the premier festival in the area. She works part-time, but year-round, preparing for the biggest party she will ever get to throw.
Loving Utica, and loving politics, Celeste had long considered running for Common Council. Then, in 2017, the Democrat incumbent representing South Utica was defeated. She decided that it was time to run. First, she worked as a Volunteer for Anthony Brindisi’s campaign for Congress, and learned a great deal about how to run for office, (and later, how to be a real public servant). Then in 2019, she ran for Common Council. She ran a big, grass roots campaign that some called the best run campaign in Oneida County that season. And so, despite not being from Utica, and despite not having a lot of name recognition, she won and was sworn in on January 1, 2020.
Since taking office, Celeste has taken to local politics like a duck to water. She enjoys providing Constituent Services, and helping people one-on-one to navigate City Hall and local government services. She thrives living a busy, meeting filled life. She has built relationships both with her Constituents, but also with the various hard-working City employees who help her solve every day problems. Communicating with people about government has perhaps been the highlight of her short time in office, sending out dozens of email Newsletters, including her “How Utica Works” series.
Celeste has always enjoyed all her various roles and the challenges of learning new things: being a Philosopher, teaching college, forging jewelry and marketing it to people, directing a large, multi-faceted Festival. But maybe being a Public Servant is what she has loved the most. She hopes that the people of South Utica feel well-served by her efforts and will re-elect her in 2021.