MANCHESTER — Effective Oct. 22, Burr and Burton Academy (BBA) student Megan LaValley will make history by becoming the youngest person at the age of 18 to ever be appointed as a full voting member of the planning commission.
The idea to appoint LaValley — who has served as a student member of the board for the past two years — came up both during a conversation with the commission's chair, John Ringwood, when there was a vacancy on the board and informally at the board level, according to planning director and zoning administrator Lee Krohn. The board was supportive of the idea and they then were faced with making the decision of either advertising for the position and going through the process of interviewing candidates or asking the Select Board to appoint her so they could accept her back as a member of the board — something that pleased LaValley who said it was depressing to see her student term come to an end.
LaValley was the youngest member out of all the students appointed to the various boards in the Youth Commission project, beginning her first term on the planning commission as a sophomore.
When the initiative was first being discussed near the end of her freshman year, LaValley said she was one of the only people who submitted an application to be considered for one of the boards, but she was told by her advisor that she might be too young to serve.
As part of the application process, students were required to pick two or three of the boards that they would like to serve on and LaValley said the planning commission was her first choice.
"It just sounded really interesting," she said. "It sounded like one of the boards where you could make the most influence and leave your mark the most because it's rules about footprint and building sizes and stuff that will stay here in the town for, you know, a hundred years. I thought it was a good place to learn a lot and kind of contribute a lot at the same time."
LaValley said she wanted to serve on one of the boards because she was possibily interested in a career in government, law or international relations and she wanted to get some experience.
Though she was potentially interested in a career in the aforementioned fields, LaValley said that she was initially interested in a much different career path.
"Originally I wanted to be a doctor which is kind of random because I'm pretty bad at math and science," she said. "Then I had this opportunity to be on the town boards and it really solidified what I want to do."
At an early age she has set an ambitious goal for herself, saying that she would someday like to serve as the Secretary of State. First, however, she must apply to the colleges, which could ultimately give her the keys to the kingdom — a process she has already begun.
LaValley said she is applying to 13 schools, some of which — such as Yale, Brown, Georgetown, and the University of North Carolina — are among the most prestigious in the nation. For LaValley though there is one school that stands out among the rest.
"Where I really want to go is Georgetown for the school of foreign service. That's what I really want to do, but there are definitely some close contenders there," she said.
Over the past two years, LaValley said she has gradually become more acclimated with the board and the rules of the planning commission and this year hopes to play a more integral role as she will be a legitimate voting member of the board.
In looking forward to the coming year and reflecting on the two years she has already spent serving on the board, LaValley said that the experience she has received has been invaluable and indicated that it would help her significantly.
"I think a lot," LaValley said of how much she believed the experience has prepared her for what she will face in the years to come. "More than I even know right now I think because just things, basic things about life, not even just government, will help me a lot in the future."