Belmont High School Senior Seeks a Seat on Town Meeting
Eighteen-year-old Chris Van Winkle of Bright Road is running for a one-year seat in Precinct 1.
The first week of April is going to be busy for Chris Van Winkle.
The Belmont High School senior will be anxiously waiting for a slew of potential college acceptance notices popping up on his computer screen.
And on April 2, the Bright Road 18 year old will be voting in the town's annual election.
And one of those people he will be voting for is himself.
For the first time in a number of years, a Belmont resident who turned 18 (in November for Chris) and eligible to run for Town Meeting will be on the ballot.
"The communication between Town Meeting and the community could be improved especially with younger people and that's a fair thing to work towards," said Chris.
"I will represent everyone equally not necessarily in favoritism for young people but if I can serve to funnel to students or 18 year olds who are not accessed to the system, maybe I can bring their voice to Town Meeting," said Chris.
Chris' attention became focused on Town Meeting when Bobby Reardon, his coach on the Belmont High School swimming team, advised him that a one-year term in Precinct 1 opened up after a recent resignation.
"[Reardon] told me about the opportunity and I knew the moment I heard about it I would be interested. I want to look to contribute to the community anyway I can so what better way than Town Meeting," he said.
So the senior went door-to-door collecting the necessary signatures after asking Precinct 1 voters to nominate him.
"It turned out to be easy enough," he said.
Chris said he became interested in public service when he became a member of the School Advisory Council as a freshman. The only state-required board for community governance at the school, the council meets the principal and deals with policy like drinking and rewriting the student handbook.
In his Junior year, Chris became class president and a member of the school senate and remains on the Advisory Council.
He points to his work last year at creating a successful compromise with school officials on reinstating dances at the High School after an incident where Seniors were caught in various states of intoxication at an earlier dance. He proposed a signed contract stripping any student of senior privileges if they were drinking before or during any subsequent dance.
"So that worked for all sides and restored dances at the High School," said Chris.
If elected to the 290-member Town Meeting, Chris wants to advocate issues that he and his peers care about.
"I will be able to address issues like renovating the High School and the Little Theater as well as the parking lot," said Chris.
And like many Town Meeting members, Chris has parking and traffic on his mind, correcting parking patterns near the new strip mall on Concord Avenue and the inclusion of "slow" signs along side streets near his house on Bright Road.
He said that of the articles before April's Town Meeting he knows about, he will be supporting a one-year Demolition Delay bylaw.
"I want to work with the people in the limitations of the circumstances," said Chris.
Chris elected to seek the one-year term as he is unclear where he might end up matriculating in the next four years.
"That seemed like the safest way," said Chris.
But it turns out that Chris will have a challenger for the one-year seat.
Chris wants to come back to Belmont and likely run for a full, three-year term.
Martin and Karen's only child, Chris has lived in Belmont for the past 12 years after living in Cambridge as an infant. He currently taking a heavy-course load at the High School along with being a state official with the Future Business Leaders of America.
Interested in English and being on swim team for three years, Chris had been involved with the Performing Arts Company throughout High School including playing his favorite role, Officer Krupke, in "West Side Story."
In fact, his current run for office will require him to drop out of his senior musical.
"I auditioned and got the part of the DJ in "Grease" but I am too busy right now," said Chris. "I have to get elected."