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Jul 19, 2023

Three candidates file for three seats in Park Ridge

By David Wildstein, August 04 2023 6:04 pm

Eighteen-year-old political boy wonder Robert Fisher will likely become the youngest elected official in New Jersey in January when he takes office as a member of the Park Ridge Board of Education.

Fisher, who graduated high school in June, is unopposed in his bid for one of three seats on his local school board. Incumbents Deborah Clare and Lauren Sum are retiring; incumbent Natalie Agoos, Rachelle Browne and Fisher have no opposition in the November general election.

“For too long, the Park Ridge Board of Education has raised taxes in our town, while our schools’ rankings continue to drop. It is simply unacceptable that our superintendent is one of the highest-paid public employees in New Jersey, while students perform below expectations every single year,” Fisher said. “Our teachers are deprived of what they need to teach their classes, while the budget still soars every single year.”

Fisher opened his campaign by criticizing the salary of Superintendent of Schools Robert Gamper, saying his salary works out to be $189-per-student while towns like Ridgewood and Paramus about one-fifth of that rate.

“I’m running first and foremost to provide our students with the quality education they need while lowering taxes by eliminating or reducing bureaucracy in the district,” he said. “I know this school district better than most. I walked the hallways of Park Ridge High School not long ago, and I know students and teachers alike are suffering due to funds filling administrators’ pockets, not buying teachers’ equipment, or adding more Honors and AP classes

Despite his age, Fisher is already a veteran of Bergen County politics. He served as field director for State Sen. Holly Schepisi’s re-election campaign in the 39th district, and is the youngest Republican county committeeman in Bergen.

He pledged to pursue a conservative agenda as a school board member.

Not only that, but I will stand up to Governor Murphy’s pseudoscientific and inappropriate sex and racial education curriculum, which the current Board has failed to do,” said Fisher. “I may be young, but I’m not stupid, and neither are the people of Park Ridge.”

Fisher will become a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville later this month. He told the New Jersey Globe that he will attend meetings virtually while he is away at college.

The first 18-year-old to win public office in New Jersey was Walter Nealy, who was appointed to fill a short-term vacancy on the Englewood City Council in 1973.

In 2019, 18-year-old Nick Pawylzyn Jr. was a high school senior when he won a seat on the New Hanover Board of Education. No one had filed for a one-year unexpired term, and with 204 votes, Pawylzyn defeated another write-in candidate by one vote. He was re-elected in 2020 but left the school board in 2021.

Michael L. Collins, now a partner at a politically influential law firm, King, Moench, and Collins, was elected to the Holmdel Board of Education in 2008 at age 18. He was the top vote-getter in a field of four candidates for three seats.

Voters in Hamilton Township elected eighteen-year-old Christopher F. Scales to a school board seat in 2014; he had graduated from Steinert High School several months earlier and was a freshman at Rider University when he won his election. Scales finished third in a seven-candidate field for three seats, topping Vincent McKelvey by 958 votes. He did not seek re-election in 2017 and instead went to law school.

After the ratification of the 26th Amendment, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18, starting with the 1972 election.