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Politically savvy

Brooksby’s Political Group aims to inform and educate

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October 14th, 2016
Brooksby residents vote in the March primary elections in the McIntosh Clubhouse at the Peabody, Mass., Erickson Living community.

Brooksby residents vote in the March primary elections in the McIntosh Clubhouse at the Peabody, Mass., Erickson Living community.

Barbara Powers stumbled upon her major as an undergraduate at Northeastern University.

“I took one political science class, then another, and another,” says Barbara, who lives at Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass. “I liked the classes so much that I earned my degree in political science.”

Politics continued to dot the landscape of Barbara’s adult life. As a young wife and mother, she volunteered with the League of Women Voters, first in Evansville, Ind., then in Acton, Mass., where she raised her family.

“The League of Women Voters was appealing because it’s nonpartisan,” says Barbara. “Its mission is to inform voters about candidates and issues so they can make informed decisions at the polls.”

For Barbara, exercising her right to vote is an important part of the democratic process.

“I haven’t missed an election since I turned 21,” she says. “Politics is part of who I am.”

Surge in political activity

In 2014, Barbara noticed a surge in political forums and candidate visits to Brooksby, where she’s lived since 2009.

“2014 was a particularly busy year,” says Barbara. “Thirteen offices were up for election that year. I asked Cheryl Whittier [community resources coordinator] who was organizing all these events at Brooksby, and she told me about the up-and-coming Political Group.”

Intrigued, Barbara volunteered to be a part of the group, composed of four Brooksby staff members and seven residents.

“The goal of the Political Group is to expose our residents to the political candidates in as clear and nonpartisan way as possible,” says Dick Thornburg, one of the resident committee members.

Much like Barbara’s prior experience with the League of Women Voters, Brooksby’s Political Group does not endorse any party or candidate. It exists to educate and inform residents about candidates and matters of public policy.

Brooksby is its own voting precinct, with residents voting in the community’s McIntosh Clubhouse. For the primary elections, more than half of the community’s registered voters went to the polls.

“Candidates like to meet residents at Brooksby because we have a high voter turnout,” says Dick. “They make a real effort to visit with us.”

The Political Group hosts individuals running for public office as well as meet-and-greet events for elected officials.

“We’ve had many individual visits, giving candidates or officials the chance to speak and offering our residents the opportunity to ask questions,” says Dani Baldassare, Brooksby’s public affairs manager and a member of the Political Group.

Engaged residents

If a candidate expresses an interest in visiting the community, the group’s policy is to invite all candidates running for that position.

Earlier this year, Brooksby hosted a forum, moderated by Dick, for six candidates running for state representative. Each candidate had five minutes for opening remarks before taking questions from the floor.

“We have an engaged group of residents,” says Dick. “They asked questions across a wide range of topics—the economy, education, immigration, climate change, and the military.”

For Barbara, the impetus to be informed and vote hasn’t diminished, and she’s encouraged by the large percentage of her neighbors who are also heading to the polls.

“I think it’s a combination of two factors,” she says. “We’re interested in current affairs, and it’s more convenient than ever to vote here at Brooksby. Voting is a right and a privilege, and we’re a community that gets out to vote.”

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