Thomas J. Stohlman, Jr. is a nerd, and proud of it. An MIT graduate with degrees in architecture and chemical engineering, Stohlman sees his education and professional experience as an important selling point in his campaign for a seat on the Cambridge City Council.
“I’m a tall, middle-aged white guy who wears bow ties and glasses,” Stohlman said with a smile in an interview for Cambridge Community Television during his previous election bid in 2009.
Stohlman does not accept campaign contributions and instead instructs potential donors to give the funds to “the Cambridge charity of your choice.”
Through his rational, balanced approach to policy issues, Stohlman says he hopes to find success against more established candidates in this year’s election.
Stohlman says his speciality—and the area in which he is most experienced—is civic planning and budget distribution. He is a self-described “budget wonk,” and his training in architecture has made him an expert on matters such as land use and public transportation.
Stohlman supports zoning initiatives which he believes will “save energy, reduce crime, and improve everyone’s quality of life,” according to a statement written on his campaign blog. In addition, Stohlman has pushed for redesigning public roads and sidewalks to reduce traffic and to make parking easier.
Outside his interest in Cambridge’s infrastructure, Stohlman has also expressed his support for increased funding for senior programs and recreational facilities for youth.
A father of three, Stohlman was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and moved to Cambridge in 1972 to study at MIT. He is currently a practicing architect, though he promises to make the City Council his only full-time job if elected.
Stohlman has provided free architectural consulting to the Cambridge Public Library in the past, and his firm specializes in residential and energy-conscious design. Stohlman emphasizes his budget expertise and familiarity with the city’s finances during his campaign, pointing to his time on the Cambridge Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee.
“Cambridge is a well-off town,” Stohlman says, “and we’re not having to make tough decisions about how to spend that money.” Stohlman would use his experience in budgeting and Cambridge financing to fund initiatives for economic growth, such as investing in “high tech and entrepreneurial office space.”
He ran unsuccessfully for one of the nine City Council seats in 2009, but has since redoubled his efforts to win the hearts and minds of Cambridge voters.
His website states that he wants to “govern by walking around,” and his intimate style of leadership is reflected in his campaign strategy.
An avid walker, Stohlman sent out hundreds of handwritten postcards to Cambridge residents all over the city, featuring scenic views of the Charles River and other sights in the area. And throughout the entire campaign, Stohlman has hit the streets to meet with the people. Stohlman also maintains a website, Facebook account, Twitter account, and YouTube channel to connect with voters.
In addition to emphasizing his affection for Cambridge, Stohlman uses his quirky sense of humor to help endear himself to voters. In one of his YouTube videos, for example, he wears Groucho Marx-style novelty glasses, and in another he shows off his collection of bow ties, his signature fashion item.
“From space, Cambridge looks like a giant green bow tie,” Stohlman jokes in the video, pointing out where various Cambridge landmarks would be located on his bow tie.
Stohlman describes himself as “a shy and modest person who’d rather hear about you.” He also says he has no interest in negative campaigning.
When asked about each of his opponents in the upcoming election, Stohlman had nothing but kind words.
“Gary Mello is not a politician, and that’s a good thing, because it’s hard to shake the politician’s blinders from our eyes and see new ways to solve old problems,” Stohlman says of one of his opponents. The most combative he gets is a humorous swipe at Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, as written on his Twitter account: “Will Scott Brown be as effective in the U.S. Senate as he was in the Massachusetts Senate? My guess is yes. It’s easy to do nothing.”