How A 18-Year-Old Wants To Change Belmont Town Meeting For The Better

Photo: Here’s Devan at Candidates Night.

Devan O’Toole will be seeking higher office at Tuesday’s Town Election from his present position as president.

What’s that?

The presidency O’Toole currently holds – for the second-year running – is the Class of 2018 at Belmont High School. And if his door-to-door campaign for Town Meeting Member in Precinct 2.

And if successful on Tuesday, O’Toole will become the youngest Town Meeting Member in Belmont history at 18, breaking the age record of his good friend, Daniel Vernick, who was elected to Town Meeting from Precinct 1 last year. 

A real “townie,” – he’s always lived in Belmont and attended Winn Brook, Chenery and is a senior at Belmont High – O’Toole lives with his parents and sister, Angela, on Beatrice Circle. 

Known for his quick laugh and sunny personality, O’Toole is at the ready to volunteer or take charge of an event or cause. He says serving as his class’ president for the past two years has been his favorite role while a close second has been Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the annual Belmont Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.

But will his success and accomplishments in high school translate to confidence by Precinct 2 voters to elect him to one of the 15 open seats available on Tuesday? The Belmontonian asked O’Toole about his vision and goals if elected to Town Meeting.

[The interview was cut for clarity and because O’Toole can talk up a storm.]

Q: Why is an 18-year-old running for town meeting? Should you be hanging out in someone’s basement rec room rather than spending three days in May voting on bylaw changes?

A: Sadly there is a lack of rec rooms in Belmont, so I decided that running for office was a good substitute. As much as I love spending my nights playing foosball in the basement of the YMCA, creating a better Belmont for everyone in our town is a higher priority. I knew that as soon as I registered to vote, I wanted to participate in the town government.

During high school, I tried to get involved with helping our town as much as possible. As the Senior Class President, I have coordinated community building events and fundraisers. Working with Belmont High School’s Building Committee, I have been able to work on educational policies for our school, hiring new staff, and creating plans for a new building. 

Although I have enjoyed these opportunities to work with the town immensely, I knew that serving in Town Meeting was the next step toward helping our town to a greater degree. It’s a passion of mine to create solutions to assist people with their problems. I hope to serve in Town Meeting because I want to represent the needs of the people of my precinct, and the people of Belmont, so that solutions can be created to benefit our community.

Q: What has been the reaction to your candidacy? What has been your family’s reaction?

A: Throughout this entire campaign, I have loved talking to the people of my precinct. It’s so interesting to see our neighbors’ different perspective on the current condition of our town, and what specific community issues each person prioritizes. Hearing these diverse perspectives has helped me learn about our town, and I hope to use this knowledge to create informed solutions to resolve these town problems.

Q: What issues are you running on?

A: First of all, I am a product of the Belmont school system, so maintaining and improving Belmont’s incredible learning environment is a key priority of mine. I have a little sister who will be a freshman at Belmont High School next year, and I want nothing but the best for her and all the other future Belmont High School students.

I also plan to increase transparency in this position. I truly believe that receiving feedback from the people of my precinct is a vital part of the job. I will constantly make myself available online and in person before voting begins in town meeting. In fact, if anybody is reading this wants to get in touch with me about community issues and discuss issues I should work on, please shoot me an email at devantownmeeting@gmail.comSome residents may suggest that since you are a dependent – a kid – you really don’t have a stake in town?

Q: Some residents may suggest that since you are a High School student, you don’t have a stake in running the town.

A: Belmont must be a place that supports the needs of all people in this town, regardless of age or any other distinction. I truly live and breathe Belmont; I had always tried to make myself aware of the problems our town faces, even before I decided to run for Town Meeting. I believe that there are no age restrictions on wanting to make Belmont a better place for everyone

It’s true that I don’t yet pay taxes myself, but since this position is all about representing the people of precinct 2 and the people of Belmont, I aim to represent them fully. Making myself available so that the people of my precinct can voice their concerns is vital, because that is the best way I can make a decision about how to vote for fiscal issues that includes everyone’s perspective.

Q: How has your youth helped/hindered your candidacy?

The people I’ve talked to seem to be happy that an 18-year-old is running. The median age of town meeting members is about 60, so a lot of the people in my precinct have told me that it would be good to have a youth perspective in town government.

My experience growing up in Belmont has given me a unique view into Belmont’s issues. For example, I’m just finishing going through the Belmont school system, so I have a firsthand look at some of the needs of our education system. There are a lot of people in Belmont that move here for our town’s schools. A lot of parents with children in Belmont schools that I have talked to seem to like the idea of a high school Town Meeting Member.

I have also heard numerous times along the campaign trail that people are concerned that there are too little changes in Belmont. Belmont has a little bit of a legacy of being opposed to change, so I hope that by providing a new perspective I can change this legacy to being a town that supports change that makes people’s lives better.

Q: Any funny incidents on the campaign trail?

A lot of people thought I was trying to sell them something when I first started campaigning. I don’t think they knew I was a candidate because I’m a teenager.

I was walking through a nice, quiet neighborhood when I heard a car roll up behind me. Apparently, the driver was worried by my clipboard because she leaned out her window and screamed “Solicitor! Solicitor! Everyone lock your doors and don’t look at him!” She then proceeded to run as fast as Usain Bolt up her stairs into her house, completely in a panic. I wasn’t even upset, I couldn’t stop laughing. She pretty much pulled a Paul Revere on me, and I guess she thought I was a Red Coat.

[This article has been revised with the correct age of the subject]

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  1. says

    Unless Devan O’Toole turned 18 under two months ago, I’m fairly certain he won’t be the youngest Town Meeting member in Belmont history.

    A former friend of mine, Frank Lombardo, was elected at 18 years old in April (I think/assume), only after having turned 18 on February 16th of that year.

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