Wunderkind Chase Harrison Takes Spot on New Jersey Town's Board of Ed

At 18, He's Youngest Official in State

He’s Our Boy: High school senior Chase Harrison makes a point during debate for Millburn, N.J. school board election. He won!
courtesy of chase harrison
He’s Our Boy: High school senior Chase Harrison makes a point during debate for Millburn, N.J. school board election. He won!

By Michael Kaminer

Published November 22, 2013.
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Do you feel more pressure to perform because of your age?

I do. I have a lot to prove to the general populace, and I have a responsibility I have to fulfill for the citizens of Millburn, who took a chance on me. It’s pretty unprecedented to have an active student on the board of schools. It could also set a precedent for towns in New Jersey and across the country. Having a student voice on the Board is so important. It can add to the dialogue, and prove that students can act maturely in that capacity.

Reports on your victory singled out your use of social media. How did that figure into the campaign?

I used my Facebook page as an opportunity to express my platform and respond to concerns in the community. For example, I brought up the issue of implementing a block schedule, which is used by many public schools in the tri-state area. The post went viral. It was a good gauge of what students themselves wanted.

Do you think your Jewish background has played a role in your development as a political animal?

My family put a high value on political discussion at the dinner table, which is something I think a lot of Jewish families put a high value on. It made me interested in politics, and got me comfortable engaging in dialogue. It also got me into speech and debate. I travel the country as part of my school’s debate team, and I’ve been a two-time national finalize in Extemporaneous Speaking competitions. For a campaign, it made it a natural transition.

After the school board, what next? President?

Everyone asks if I want to be president. But I was born in Australia. I’d love to participate in the legislative body at some point. Maybe starting small, like the state legislature. Last year, I worked for a New Jersey assemblywoman Mila Jasey. I got to go to Trenton several times, and even pressed the voting button, which was cool. I did some outreach to religious groups and not-for-profits in our district. It was a great experience to learn how to socialize with people in that capacity. A lot of skills I learned there transferred well into the campaign.

After your election, a NJ.com headline asked, “Can an election official be too young?” What’s your answer?

Obviously, I think there’s a point where someone’s too young. There’s a two-year-old mayor somewhere in Minnesota – I’m not sure what a great idea that is. But getting young people familiar with policy is a good way to get them familiar with politics. An insider’s perspective allows them to contribute productively. If there’s anywhere to start, it’s the school board.


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