For 22-year-old Colleen Maloney of Bridgewater, age is not a deterrent when entering politics, and might be a benefit.
Maloney, slated to graduate from Stonehill College in May, just announced her candidacy for state representative from the 8th District for the 2014 election.
Maloney is among a small but growing movement of 20-somethings who are entering the political scene, hoping to make a difference. While the younger politicians may lack experience, they can bring fresh perspective and energy to the table.
“I grew up in a family that was really focused on community involvement,” said Maloney, whose mother is on the West Bridgewater Board of Selectmen. Chairwoman of the Southeastern Regional School Committee, Maloney’s passions center on education, the gas tax and local crime.
“I feel it’s really important for people my age to become more involved because the decisions that are being made today are going to be affecting my generation sooner than some people my age fully realize,” she said.
“We don’t give this millennial generation enough credit for showing their concern for their community or state or nation they live in,” said Mike Kryzanek, professor of political science at Bridgewater State University. “It’s not an overwhelming involvement of young people but there’s no doubt young people helped Obama win the election twice, and we’re seeing young people coming into school committees, etc., which is an encouraging sign.
“Massachusetts has the best schools in the country and I would like to help keep it that way and support even further growth,” Maloney said. “I also am focused on tank the tax, which was the tying of the gas tax to inflation, causing it to rise automatically every year.
Maloney says Beacon Hill is not listening to the needs of the people.
“I hope to get up there and think differently,” she said.
Like Maloney, Joe Pacheco, 28, got involved in politics while still in college. Pacheco said he’s grateful the town of Raynham gave him a chance seven years ago by electing him to the Board of Selectmen.
“The people of Raynham understood I was young but they gave me an opportunity to accomplish what I set out to do,” said Pacheco, among the fourth generation of Raynham public officials and volunteers.
At age 19, Pacheco served on Raynham’s economic and business development commission, prior to being elected to the Board of Selectmen. Pacheco encourages his peers to get involved in local government.
“If you are a quality individual who can add something to the discussion and advance our community, then go ahead and do it,” Pacheco said.
State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr believes youthful politicians can enrich government as a whole.
“Our democracy depends on the perspectives, insights, and experiences from people of all ages, and so it’s important to have younger candidates bring those things to the table,” said Tarr. “Their voice can help us focus on important issues like the need to create jobs, and to make education and health care more affordable.”
He said having younger people running for office sets an example and motivates others.
East Bridgewater School Committee member Keith Boyle, 23, agrees.
“I believe my unique business background enables me to have fiscal responsibility, which allows me to keep a balanced budget and live within my means,” said Boyle, who owns and operates KDB Cranberries and works as a horticultural teacher at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.
“I bring a more technological outlook to the East Bridgewater School Committee because I understand the growing importance of new technology being used to enhance education,” Boyle said.
Boyle said he’s grateful that he was allowed to take agricultural courses. He said he’s driven by a desire to give back to the community.
“I was given the opportunity to attend Norfolk County Agricultural High School for their agricultural courses that East Bridgewater didn’t offer, and running for school committee also allowed me to pursue a passion I have always had for politics,” Boyle said.