Matt Jablonski, a personable 16-year-old sophomore at Wellesley High School, this March will seek to extend his political ambitions beyond being VP of his class by becoming a Wellesley Town Meeting member.
Jablonski is running for a seat in Precinct H, where 13 candidates — including 10 incumbents — are vying for 10 seats in the March 5 election. Unlike the others, of course, Jablonski won’t get to vote for himself at Sprague Elementary School that day. (Teens in Town Meeting aren’t unprecedented, with 17-year-old Michael D’Ortenzio, Jr. winning a seat as recently as 2010 to become the first high school student to do so.)
The Jablonski name is well known in Wellesley town politics, with his mom Susan having been a recent chair of the School Committee, on which she served for 5 years (Matt says he was very young at the time, but does recall seeing his mom on TV and has tapped her for advice given that she was also a Town Meeting member for 9 years). Matt also has a valued marketing professional in his dad, Ted, in his “camp.”
The younger Jablonski, who stands 6-feet-2-inches tall and has lived in Wellesley for most of his life, says he has “always been intrigued by the political process… Local, national and international events all interest me.” Jablonski sees Wellesley’s form of town government as fostering a deep sense of community among residents, and he’d like to represent both kids and adults in his precinct.
On the local level, he has a bird’s eye view of the Wellesley public school system. “As a high school student, I can bring a unique perspective to Town Meeting, even though most members have much more ‘life experience’ than me. A lot of the discussion and debate at Town Meeting revolves around budgets and funding for maintenance and upkeep and the schools. As someone who is living the Wellesley school experience on a daily basis, I can bring a first hand perspective on what actually happens in our classrooms.” Regarding the new high school, he says: “The new high school was money well spent because it was a needed upgrade from the old high school, which was left in poor condition. But some of the technology investments, like the smart boards, may not have been needed considering that some teachers do not use them.” He also likes the sounds of upgrading the high school stadium, which he sees as a central gathering place.
Jablonski, who cites Theodore Roosevelt as a past politician he admires because of his pragmatic approach to things, says one of the town’s biggest challenges is maintaining its “livability for future generations,” making smart budget decisions on schools, including infrastructure.
The young candidate says his experience in school politics has been positive, giving him a chance to interact closely with school administrators and to hone his communications skills. (While I don’t know Matt, I have seen him in action on the basketball court and can vouch for his communication skills.) Jablonski’s extracurricular activities include working at Truly Yogurt, playing tennis and hanging out with friends.
We asked Town Clerk Kathleen Nagle about the recent increase in young candidates, including Sam White and Jonathan Fink, both of whom were elected to one-year terms in 2012 while even younger than Matt Jablonski. Both are running for re-election this time around for Town Meeting.
“It is interesting to see this sudden interest in serving on Town Meeting for students. The bylaw only requires [you be a] ‘resident.’ The history of representative town meeting is an evolution of open town meeting where only voters were able to participate. At the time of the Special Act of 1932 it is unlikely that town leaders expected student participation, but they appeared to be open to nonvoter residents serving in certain positions. We have had a history of several non-citizens serving in elected office and contributing to our town. From time to time we have also had students from Wellesley College as Town Meeting Members, although they have been of voting age at the time of service,” Nagle writes.
RELATED: Write-in Town Meeting Candidates Needed – Precincts A, E, and F need additional candidates to fill the seats available for election this year. Residents who are interested in doing a write-in campaign for these seats should contact the Town Clerk for details.