A senior political science major at Temple will get firsthand experience in politics when he takes office in his Philadelphia suburb next year after being elected on Nov. 5.
James Lafferty, a soon-to-be Temple graduate who plans on attending law school, won a seat on the Sharon Hill Borough Council in Delaware County, Pa.
On Election Day, Democrats swept all four seats that were open on the council, including Lafferty, who collected 709 votes in the race – 420 more than his Republican competitor William Benecke.
Sharon Hill, a town with almost 5,700 people located about 10 miles southwest of Temple, is known as a historic place because of its long-standing houses, many of which range from 75 to 100 years old. Lafferty said he seeks to make an immediate impact on the community he was born and raised in.
“I’ve always had a deep desire to serve,” he said. “I realized that from running in local campaigns, local government is very inefficient. It’s run by individuals who don’t have much experience or education, and most of the time they’re forced to just sit in the seat and not do anything, so I really wanted to try and change that by applying some of the things I’ve learned through economics and political science to try and change the community.”
The 23-year-old said it’s important for people of his generation to get involved in politics.
“What I kept hearing on the campaign trail was that they wanted our generation to get more involved,” Lafferty said. “It was great that we’re taking the reins to try and take over local government, because the issues that are coming up in the next decade or so, it’s going to be us who are going to have to address those.”
Helping Lafferty during his campaign was Derek Sinclair, an electrical engineering major and childhood friend from Sharon Hill.
“I would help him when he was handing out flyers, going door to door and staying up-to-date with everything,” Sinclair said. “It was kind of a no-brainer [that he won], but for how young he was, it was a big step.”
Sinclair praised Lafferty’s mission to make local government more transparent and accessible to the community.
“He wants to videotape Borough Council meetings so people know what the truth is, because transparency today is a big issue, and I guess sometimes the news and media aren’t getting an unbiased opinion,” Sinclair said. “You’re either going to agree with him on a fact or he’s just going to butt your head because you’re spitting out nonsense.”
Lafferty said that while attending college and serving in local government will keep his schedule busy, managing it all won’t be a problem.
“It can be tough to juggle,” he said. “But when you’re in local government in my borough, which is only a population of about 5,000 people, it’s not like a full-time job. You get what you put into it, as they say. It doesn’t require you to [work] eight, nine hours a day and five days a week.”
Lafferty and his fellow council members – Sharon Booker, Terrence Oliver and ToniAnne Martinez – will take office in January. Booker and Oliver are both Temple graduates who majored in communications and accounting, respectively.
Lafferty said his main focus is on being prepared once January rolls around.
“The essentials now are just getting a budget together, filling vacancies,” Lafferty said. “Then we’ll focus on the other activities.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.