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How to Succeed in Local Politics

By Joe Mathews

Name: Anjan Mukherjee

Where he lives: Mather House

Hometown: Lexington, MA

Does he spend much time there? "Sophomore year, kind of on a whim, I ran for a spot on the town meeting, one of three governing bodies in Lexington. I didn't do much, but I ended up losing by less than one percent...At that point, I realized this was something I could do, so the next year I campaigned, wrote in the town paper, the Lexington Minuteman, and distributed flyers. I won a three-year term...It's a very tough job, but it's fun too. You get right involved in running a town."

Was his age and issue? "I had two things I had to overcome. I as the youngest person running, and the second was that I was still in college. But I'd kept in touch with the town and shown I was energetic."

Why did he decide to run? "I'd done leadership things before, including going to Boys State and being vice president of Boys Nation. And I wanted to experience the legislative side. I may want to try politics later, and I wanted a position where I could have a chance to learn about the job and do good work."

What was his platform? "It's not that important to have a detailed platform. It's more important to show dedication to the town...I'd served as moderator of the student-faculty senate [at Lexington High], which has a lot of power. We can overrule the principal, for example. We also had lots of contact with the school committee, and that got me interested in serving in town government.

"But as for specific issues, I was running basically on the notion that we need a strong school system and we must preserve the school budget as much as possible, including overriding Proposition 2.5(the proposition allows the town to have a vote and take on additional municipal taxes to preserve the school budget)...[And on the town committee] there was a proposal to have each classroom linked into the information superhighway within five years that won. I was psyched because I was pushing that pretty hard."

What does the town meeting do? "Well, there's a board of selectmen, a school committee and a town manager who are all more directly involved in running the town. The town meeting has representatives(199 in all) from nine precincts, and we review the decisions of the other bodies, and we sign off on the town budget. Lexington government is almost a Social Studies 10 Tocquevillian notion of institutional levels and divisions to prevent tyranny of the majority."

How long has he lived in Lexington? "All my life, except for four years in Houston [during elementary school]...My father is an engineer and my a computer analyst."

Why did he concentrate in social studies? "I was premed when I first got here. But I like the content of my non-science courses more than my science courses. Social studies has this reputation as being very rigorous. I also wanted smaller major, and the interdisciplinary nature of social studies was very positive.

What are his after graduation plans? "That's a big decision I have to make. I have a banking job in New York [at Morgan Stanley.]

"In high school, I played guitar with a band called Sleight of Hand. Some of the other members are graduating from Berklee College of Music...So there's a chance I may take a year off and tour with the band...In two years, I'm committed to attending Harvard [for law school],"

What was the group's sound? "We started in junior high messing around in a friend's basement. By the ninth grade, we were playing clubs in Boston. We were rock/alternative, with a sort of heavy edge to it. The music is really good, but the lyrics suck. If they want to make it big, they need lyrics that are in touch with teen angst and stuff that sells."

What is he doing with all the free time before graduation? "Trying to make up my mind, and also watching basketball. I only lived in Houston for a little while, but I'm a big Rockets fan."

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