UMass sophomore Garret Shetrawski runs for state representative

By Aviva Luttrell

Photo courtesy of Garret Shetrawski
Photo courtesy of Garret Shetrawski

University of Massachusetts sophomore Garret Shetrawski may be just 19 years old, but youth hasn’t stopped him from running in the upcoming Massachusetts State Representative race for the Second Worcester District seat.

Shetrawski, a Republican from Winchendon, is trying to unseat Democrat Jon Zlotnik, who has held the position since 2012.

Shetrawski, a lifelong resident of the district, is a political science major at UMass and has been involved in politics since he was 16. After sitting on the sidelines, he said he’s ready to take on a more active role.

“We always hear people talk about our generation (being) doomed or heading in the wrong direction, so (instead of) sitting back and just complaining about it, I think now is more the time than ever to go out and do it yourself,” Shetrawski said.

“I come from a decently political family so it was always something that was discussed around the house (growing up).”

His great grandfather, Robert Abare, worked for the Kennedy Administration beginning in 1960 when he joined the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1980, he retired from the ICC as Regional Director in Boston. Shetrawski’s grandfather, Jim Abare, is a school committee member and longtime coach in Gardner.

The University has granted Shetrawski 15 internship credits to run for State Representative, so he will move home to his parents’ house in Winchendon to campaign during the fall semester.

“It’s a win-win. If it happens, that’s great, but you (also) get great first-hand experience,” he said. “It was really kind of a no-brainer in my eyes.”

Although he’s never held public office, Shetrawski brings several years of political experience to his candidacy.

In 2012, Shetrawski worked on the state representative campaign for Republican Rich Bastien, the previous incumbent for the seat Shetrawski is now running for.

“I worked very actively on his campaign, I was one of the top aids,” he said, adding that he would usually work four or five days a week.

Last year, he was field organizer in central and western Massachusetts for Dan Winslow during his run for U.S. Senate. Shetrawski has also worked as a campaign manager for a mayoral candidate in his district.

“That was really good experience, to be able to manage my own race from the top down,” he said.

For the past three years, Shetrawski has also been working on a book about World War II in the Pacific and has interviewed over 200 veterans from across the country.

“(That’s where) I get a lot of my drive from,” he said. “Hearing these guys’ stories first hand gives me a unique perspective of what America used to be, and kind of how we’re trailing away from that.

“These guys have definitely given me a lot of push towards the right direction,” he said.

If elected, Shetrawski said he would focus on reducing regulations for small businesses and helping veterans.

“These mom and pop stores, these are the economic drivers of my area,” he said. “I know these people individually, and they definitely feel (the brunt of tax increases).

“My thing is that there is a lack of oversight on Beacon Hill from the one-party system,” Shetrawski said.

Shetrawski graduated from Gardner High School and was a three-sport varsity captain in football, basketball and baseball. He is currently a brother at the Theta Chi Fraternity and is actively involved in the UMass College Republicans.

“A lot of people know me from sports, from being around and working on the campaign, so it’s cool to actually see them and have them on my side this time around,” he said.

Shetrawski said he plans to use social media to his advantage during the campaign. His Facebook page, launched on Feb. 7, had nearly 300 likes as of Tuesday.

“For something like this, I don’t see age playing a factor at all,” he said. “I don’t think kids should be discouraged from going after something because they’re young.

“I think it’s really derived from the issues, how you carry yourself, how you send your message – and I think that’s how this race is going to be won.”

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected]