Have you ever wondered what it's like to run for public office as a Young Dem, much less to win? We wanted to hear about the experience of serving as an elected official at a young age in New Jersey, so we'll be sitting down with a different Young Dem holding public office in the Garden State every month.
This month, we sat down with Dan Kline, a Councilman in Roxbury, New Jersey who unseated an incumbent Republican in his hometown last November.
NJYD: What made you decide to run for public office?
Dan: Roxbury was an incredible place to grow up. I'm grateful for that, and decided it was time to give back to my community.
NJYD: What are some of the challenges you faced, running as a Young Dem, and how did you overcome them?
Dan: One challenge any Young Dem will face is having people assume you're inexperienced or unknowledgeable because of your age. Some good ways to overcome these assumptions are by 1) actually being (or becoming) knowledgeable on issues; 2) not being afraid to ask for other perspectives or for more information, and 3) being respectful of different opinions. Being able to discuss issues and present facts to support my argument made a big difference when going door to door.
Another challenge was running for office during my first semester of law school while also working as a Legislative Aide. I needed to learn better time management skills to have any chance of succeeding. This was a sink-or-swim type of learning experience for me, but it doesn't have to be for you. Make a productive choice every day. It gets easier every time you do it.
NJYD: Do you find it difficult to manage your position as a young, Democratic elected official in a predominantly Republican municipality?
Dan: My experience is exactly how any experience in public service should be - difficult at times, but always worth the effort. I'm proud to say that everything I've accomplished while in office has been a bipartisan effort. In all fairness, I should also mention that I'm the only Democrat on Roxbury's Town Council.
Bipartisanship revolves around the crazy notion that not everybody on the other side of the aisle is a monster, and by working together, we can accomplish great things that will benefit our community. One thing I've found helpful is showing how your policies will benefit everybody. People are more likely to support your cause if they will benefit from it as well. Elected officials should keep an open mind when listening to different perspectives. At the end of the day, we're all subject to the court of public opinion; if we aren't helping our constituents, they'll help us find a new job.
NJYD: What's on the horizon for you?
Dan: Earning my J.D. from Rutgers Law School, focusing on passing good policy during my 3 remaining years before I'm up for re-election, and snowboarding if I ever get a free moment.
NJYD: Do you have any advice for Young Dems that might like to run for office someday?
Dan: Get involved. Despite sounding incredibly cliché, it's the best way to make a difference. Reach out to your Municipal or County Chair. Spend some time at a local Habitat for Humanity build. Volunteer on a campaign. It's important to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. The more experience you have, the better of a campaign you'll be able to run when it's your time.
To keep up to date with the progressive measures being implemented by Dan in his role as Councilman, check out his Facebook Page.
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