By Desirée Taylor
Chase Harrison appears to be on a path to a successful career in politics. That’s because at just 18 years old, the Millburn High School student pulled off a stunning upset. He beat an incumbent candidate to win a seat on the school board.
“It’s the first time the school board election hit a governor’s race, so I knew turnout could be high. And I knew I had a lot of support in town. But the woman I was running against had great credentials and a lot support as well. So I had a party with a bunch of friends, watched what happened and it turned out in my favor,” Harrison said.
Harrison used social media to connect with voters and communicate his platform. He already has several items on his to-do list.
“Increased student mental health services, shifts in science tech curriculum, I pushed for changes to our AP policies,” Harrison said.
Harrison’s young age presented some challenges. He had to wait until he turned 18 to get a campaign account, which was shortly before the election. And critics questioned whether there would be a conflict of interest for him to be a student and serve on the school board.
“Certainly there is that concern that there may be a conflict of interest if there were personal interests with one of his teachers, he will have to excuse himself from those discussions. I have faith that Chase will do the right thing if he has to excuse himself he will,” said Millburn High School Principal William Miron
Another challenge — Harrison will likely go to college out-of-state next fall.
“The nice thing about Facebook is that even when I am away at college, students can still message me very casually about their concerns. i am still accessible by email and I plan to come back and I can shape my schedule around that,” said Harrison.
Another sign Harrison is a high achiever are the many trophies he has won for his debating skills. Harrsion also interned with Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. His parents say politics has always been his passion — even though campaigns can get a bit nasty at times.
“He did get a taste of how rough and tumble it can be. So we have concerns,” his father David Harrison said.
“We had a family discussion about whether he should do this but his passion is so strong, we knew we couldn’t stop him,” said his mother Beth Harrison.
Students are also thrilled to have a peer sit on the school board.
He is a student of Millburn High School and he kmnows other kids and can talk to them more openly than a 35 year old adult could,” said Matthew Garawitz, student.
Other notables who jump-started their careers by getting elected to school boards include U.S. Sen. Bob Menenedez — elected at age 20 — and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, elected — like harrison — at age 18. Harrison plans to pursue a career in politics.