Youngest Women Elected to the Marlborough City Council. Read Samantha Perlman's Story

"Decisions are made by those who show up. This is a statement that continues to resonate with me as I became increasingly active in my hometown as a young professional. Such engagement and passion for community change eventually led to me becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the City Council at age 24.

I had no idea that I would become a City Councilor. Growing up in Massachusetts, I always had a passion for government but always worked on the legislative side because I saw the positive impact of public service on people’s lives. Throughout college, I held several government internships and continued my engagement with policymakers, only one of which was a woman.

It was not until I began working full time in civic education at the nonprofit Generation Citizen, that I fully connected the dots between systemic policy change and the power of young people. In my job, I assisted young people, college volunteers and teachers on action civics projects where youth enacted policy changes in their own communities. Such youth agency reflected on me as a young person living in my hometown after college. I started to show up – attended city meetings, became appointed to a City Commission, joined local community groups and reached out to influencers in my community. Simultaneously, I began immersing myself in biographies and books that detailed women’s political power. This heightened my awareness about the gender gap in politics.

My own City Council at this time had only 1 woman out of 11 Councilors and I was in shock. If I really valued young women in office, I needed to be vulnerable enough to run. Despite all of the challenges – financial, minimal name recognition, working a full-time job, age and gender, I remained consistent and determined. You cannot let anyone control your self-esteem and need to remember that YOU ARE ENOUGH. With this in mind, we need more women running for office now more than ever before. Women need to be asked seven times to run for office, so run run run run run run run! Do not wait for someone else to ignite change in your community, you have the power within yourself to lead.

Now serving in my elected role, I see how important it is that I am occupying this seat. Not only am I involved in pivotal decisions that impact residents across our city, but I am also in a position to provide constituent services and education about local government. Further, I am a role model for other young people to see themselves in elected office and that is incredibly powerful and probably one of the most rewarding parts of the role. I continue to think about how I might have seen the world differently if I saw a 24-year-old woman as my City Councilor growing up. I am left guessing the result but the young women in our community no longer need to guess.

Being a young woman in a local office has an adjustment period. Female elected officials are held to different standards than their male counterparts, especially having to ‘prove’ their competence or needing to be ‘likeable’ in order to gain support. Navigating these stereotypes and biases are challenging and often unpredictable. Even when I was running, I had residents ask me what my maiden name was, how many children I had and other very stark gendered inquiries. My approach in these situations is to lead with authenticity and integrity. If someone makes a remark that is not appropriate, I am sure to call that person in, correcting their error so that it is a learning experience and will not be repeated.

Finally, I want to touch upon the importance of voting, not as the goal of being civically engaged but a bridge to improve our communities. Vote because it is an act of hope for a better tomorrow. Be sure to vote down ballot and vote for state and local elections because that is where the most change can happen and who you elect matters the most. As an elected official, organizer, nonprofit professional and young woman, I am sharing the best kept secret: the real power lies in the people. If we have learned anything from the incredible social change movements sweeping our country, such as Black Lives Matter, the Climate Movement and March for Our Lives, a group of mobilized individuals can push for change and move our communities forward in limitless ways. You hold the power. The question is: how will you use it?"

@samformarlboro