Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Question and Answer: Town Council candidate and UMass student John Page

Page is one of the nearly three dozen candidates running for a seat

%28Courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons%29
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Abigail Charpentier, News Editor

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John Page, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, is running for a District 3 seat in the inaugural Town Council in Amherst. This change comes after the Amherst election in March that approved a new charter that changes the town’s form of government from a 240-person Town Meeting with a five-member Select Board to a 13-member Town Council. All of the candidates running for the three at-large seats and 10 precinct seats can be found on the town’s website.

The preliminary election for Amherst’s Town Council will take place on September 4, with a general election scheduled on November 6. The deadline to register to vote in the Town Council/State election in November is October 17.

Page is an operations and information management and political science double major. He has worked for UMass Dining for nearly five years and is currently the student manager at Berkshire Dining Commons.

Abigail Charpentier: Why are you running for a seat in the inaugural town council?

John Page: I think it is important that, especially on this inaugural town council, the first one, that we establish a precedent of having a young person or even – dare I say a student – on the town council because in Amherst, 56 percent of the population is between 18 and 22 years old and therefore, someone needs to represent that voice and speak to that perspective. Additionally, I went to Amherst High and UMass; I’m a product of public institutions and I want to give back to those who have shaped me.

AC: How did you become interested in Amherst town politics?

JP: I guess it first started when I was in high school… There was an advisory to the school committee in Amherst and that was my first introduction to local politics. More recently, Amherst had this big charter debate on how to govern Amherst and that’s when I really tuned in and started engaging more, especially since I work with the UDems and we got really involved. From there, I met a lot people and learned a lot more about it and really wanted to get more involved.

AC: What experience do you have that would make you a qualified town council member?

JP: I think my experience that I have lived, worked, gone to school in the town in a variety of capacities. I think I’m uniquely situated in that way… We had a candidate meeting a few months back and I was the only person who had… lived here and went through the Amherst schools. I was [class] president [in high school], I worked a lot with that, and now I’m at UMass as a student. So I have that experience and I’ve worked at UMass, this will be my fifth year working for UMass dining, so I know what it is like to work in Amherst and work for the University and I think that unique position will give me some insight into how we can have the first town council.

AC: What issues are the most important to you?

JP: The three biggest issues for me would be schools at every level. We have two elementary schools and the buildings themselves are in rough shape and that needs to be addressed. We have a lot of infrastructure problems, that’s really the biggest one. Amherst is an education town and we should have the best, highest quality education from pre-K all the way to 12. Leading into my second thing, we are also this college town. We have the college culture here…We need to be working with our institutional partners so we can both succeed. It would by silly to not engage UMass and Amherst College and Hampshire College in the conversation as we go forward and I think I am someone who can do that. I think it’s important that no matter who’s on [the town council] to partner with our institutions here. Lastly, it’s all about going through charter decisions, we’re going through the next chapter of Amherst and so it’s about development and responsible development and how can we do that in Amherst while preserving the character of our town while also going to the next level, the next chapter of our town.

AC: If you make it past the preliminary round of voting, what would you do next?

JP: The preliminary election is September 4, same as the Massachusetts primary. It’s really tough to get a lot of students out to vote… For the general election I really want to prove that young people, whether they’re graduate students working at the University or students, are a constituency in Amherst and they have a voice and that they are going to be engaged. So I really want to get a record number of people voting, whether for me or not – I hope for me, of course -and that’s really my goal. And a lot of organizations on campus, a lot of RSOs, have that general goal as well. In 2018 I hope we still have this energy about engaging people after 2016, whatever your political thoughts are. I think people are really excited about 2018 and what can happen. So I hope this will be record setting for the town in terms of engagement and the number of people that vote as well as for young people, right now it’s still pretty low, it remains pretty low.

AC: If you were elected, how would you bridge the UMass community to the Amherst community?

JP: In a variety of ways. There are some small things that I think are really important. Like the Select Board in Amherst was always committed to having an annual meeting with student government, but everyone was busy and it never came to fruition and it hasn’t for the past several years. So I think even being in the same room and sitting down and sharing what you’ve worked on in the year and goals you have with the next year is critical so even like having a breakfast, having a brunch, where we sit down whether it’s with students and administration and the town or do them separately… Right now the problem is people talk about students, sometimes they talk for students, but there’s no students talking in the conversation. So hopefully, I will be able to bring that.

AC: How can other students and young adults participate in Amherst town government?

JP: The thing about being a student in Amherst is it is sort of your new home, even if it is just for a few years and if you’re here eight, nine, 10 months out of the year, you can vote at home or wherever you hail from or in Amherst and I think people should register to vote here in the fall while they’re here. It’s really easy to do it online or in person at the town hall. I think that’s the first way, just voting. That way, you have a voice and can make a change. And then, secondly, being interested in local things. If we look at the entire nation, people focus on the news or even the voting about national and sometimes state elections. But we don’t think about municipalities and the impact that they have. So having people read the newspaper and pay attention to local politics will be a critical aspect of that.

AC: Anything else?

JP: I’m excited for what this new chapter brings, whatever way I’m a part of it, and I hope a lot of students are too. I hope this really is a new chapter for us and that students are a big part of it.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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