This fall every seat on Newton’s Board of Aldermen and the Newton School Committee will be up for reelection.
But in a city where incumbents are rarely challenged and rarely lose, this election cycle will be especially noteworthy because an unusually large number of incumbents have either decided not to seek reelection (Aldermen Greer Tan Swiston, Mitch Fischman and Steve Linsky plus School Committee member Geoff Epstein) or must leave their seats due to term limits (Claire Sokoloff and Jonathan Yeo on the School Committee).
In addition, there will soon need to be a special election to fill the seat the late Carleton Merrill first occupied in 1950.
That’s at least seven new board members even before any incumbents are challenged.
It’s a safe bet to say that filling these vacancies is very much on the agenda for a group of Newton insiders who for years have been devoting their time, energy and (when needed) money, recruiting and electing candidates of their political liking. (Let me add, there’s nothing wrong with this, that’s how democracies work.)
But here’s what I’m wondering: Where’s the next generation of Newton’s political leaders going to come from? Where’s the young upstarts?
Newton has a young, Energizer Bunny of a mayor, who let’s recall, upset a trio of “insiders” to get his job and has reinvigorated our city. Mayor Warren was born in 1970. Congressman Kennedy was born in 1980. Were any of the members on either of our elected boards born in the ’70s or ’80s?
If we want Newton to be a vibrant, ever-evolving, community we need new faces and new perspectives. I’m not saying throw out everyone else. Experience matters. Institutional memory matters. But let’s hope we will look back on 2013 as a year we began seeing a new generation of Newton leaders stepping up to serve and bringing new ideas and energy to our city.