DENNIS – Getting Cape Cod’s younger generations involved in civic and political life was the focus of the inaugural Shape The Cape speaker series Friday in Dennis.
Hosted by the Cape Cod Young Professionals, the mission was to have those already engaged in their community explain how they overcame challenges to get where they are.
A theme that flowed from nearly all the speakers was the challenge of balancing personal and family life with the demanding requirements of serving in public office.
Second Barnstable State Representative Brian Mannal said it was a balancing act.
“When you take on the responsibility of being an elected official, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, then you should feel very much responsible and engaged and it takes a lot of time,” Mannal said.
Panelist Sara Cushing, a member of the Barnstable Town Council, said being a political novice and a newcomer to Cape Cod was actually a benefit when she first ran for office.
“I think it’s actually really valuable that I don’t have historical knowledge of the town and haven’t been engrained in the politics and the past history and bringing a fresh perspective and new perspective,” Cushing said.
Mashpee Selectman John Cotton also talked about balancing the demands of home life with public service.
The session was opened by Cape and Island State Senator Dan Wolf who talked about the challenges of running a business, raising his children, and getting involved in civic activities early in his career.
Wolf, who owns Hyannis-based Cape Air, said he first began his community involvement by joining the chamber of commerce in the early 1990’s.
Moving forward, Wolf said the lack of affordable housing is the biggest barrier to young people staying on Cape Cod and getting involved.
“How do we actually find balance in that example, between the extreme wealth that we have, as represented by those high end homes, retirement homes and second homes, and the need we have at the worker level,” said Wolf.
He also stressed that young people should consider getting involved in politics at the local level first, before thinking about higher office.
The forum took place at the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennis and was moderated by Barnstable This Morning host Sara Colvin.