Here on the Stay Work Play blog, we’re celebrating young leaders across the state who have stepped up to participate in the political process! “Meet Local Leader…” is a series highlighting the people under forty who are leading their communities at the local level!
Meet Mike Giacomo!
A chemical engineer by day, Mike Giacomo is one of the newest members of Keene’s young City Council. After spending his childhood in Nelson, NH, Mike left the state to attend Clarkson University in New York. He spent a year in Washington D.C. and a year in St. Louis before boomeranging back to the Granite State. I asked Mike if he was from-from New Hampshire and he said, “NH is absolutely home.” Isn’t that beautiful? What’s even more beautiful: Mike has run for City Council in Keene three times.
Tell us about your “Path to Politics” — what made you decide to get involved?
My first interest in City Council was in 2015, when I became concerned about the economic short-sighted approach of Keene’s City Council with regards to denying the event permit to the Keene Pumpkin Festival in the wake of the Keene State Riots. While that specific issue didn’t figure significantly into my platform, I decided to run for council in 2015, and finished 6th out of 16 people, but only the top five won seats. I spent the next two years learning about the city and its government, serving on committees and attending meetings, and ran again in 2017, losing by 26 votes to a multi-term incumbent. The campaign was unpleasant and nastier than I expected, and I decided I was done with politics. Then, primary week in 2019 I saw the councilor for my ward (also a multi-term incumbent) was running unopposed, and decided it wouldn’t hurt to at least give people a choice in the contest. I ran a write-in campaign the afternoon of the primaries, and got the votes necessary to get my name on the ballot for the general election. Apparently people were ready for something different (as evidenced by the flood of younger candidates winning city office in Keene), and I ended up, surprisingly, winning the election.
What’s the number one thing you hope to accomplish while in office?
I hope to help build and bolster a sustainable economy in Keene, where young professionals can feel they are supported and encouraged to live, work, and play. More esoterically, I want us to be the bridge connecting Keene’s past with its future.
What advice would you give to another young person interested in getting involved in local politics in NH?
In New Hampshire, we are in a unique position where the size of our cities and towns are small enough, yet impact regionally enough that we really do have the ability to make significant changes. I like to say Keene is small enough that one person can make a difference, but large enough that that difference matters. The “First-in-the-nation” effect of New Hampshire also cannot be understated – there are a lot of cameras on our state, and local innovation can make national impact if marketed properly.
What advice do you have for citizen advocates?
Do your homework. Though zeal can grab attention and land a headline, well-sourced data is much harder to ignore, and a much more enduring stimulus for action. Also, sitting down and chatting personally with your local officials can effect more change than broad testimony in front of a council. It’s another beautiful thing about New Hampshire, as this personal interaction is possible in nearly every town and city in the state. At the state level, New Hampshire has one of the most representative governments on earth. It’s an incredible example of democracy, and it means that if you want to find your state representatives, they likely live just down the road.
Sitting down and chatting personally with your local officials can effect more change than broad testimony in front of a council.
Finally, just for fun, tell us something about yourself that will surprise people.
I recently retired from 12 years of playing rugby, I moonlight as a pub trivia host, and I’m the current president of the Keene Young Professionals Network. In my free time, I enjoy singing, foraging for wild mushrooms, and playing frisbee golf. I grew up in an underground house in Nelson, NH and I am an Eagle Scout. I live now in downtown Keene with my wife and two cats, Vesper and Chewbacca.