Here on the Stay Work Play NH blog, we’re celebrating young leaders all over the state — and we have a lot to celebrate! Last fall, New Hampshire saw a boost in young people taking office at the state level. In fact, 42 of our representatives are under 40 years old. You’ll get to meet all of them on this space, but we also want to shine a spotlight on the young people leading their communities at the local level!
Meet Nathaniel Morneault!
A Realtor with a passion for helping first time homebuyers, Nathaniel donated his time and expertise to his town’s planning board. Nathaniel, originally from Pennsylvania, wasted no time making a name for himself in the seacoast region after moving to New Hampshire. Nathaniel is a graduate of the Leadership Seacoast Class of 2018 and serves as Co-Chair of the Board for Catapult Seacoast. After serving a full term on Durham’s planning board, Nathaniel (whom I think of as my predecessor) moved and opened the door for me to take his seat as the “token” young person on the board! I wanted to find out what Nathaniel learned from his time spent in local government.
Tell us about your “Path to Politics” — what made you decide to get involved?
I decided to get involved in my town’s planning board because of my real estate background and because I saw that there was an opportunity to provide a voice to a younger demographic that is often overlooked in town planning decisions. The board was primarily comprised of retirees, which meant I was the youngest person on my planning board by at least 30 years, and coming from outside the state, I was able to share a unique perspective on projects from a millennial’s point of view and that of a non-NH native.
What’s the number one thing you hope to accomplish while serving?
My goal while on the board was not to turn Durham into a sky-scraping metropolis or get electric scooters on every corner, but to change the way people think and provide a road map to other young professionals in my town on how to get involved. The only way to truly cause positive change is to be the change we wish to see. It’s easy to complain about how things are, what is hard is believing in making your community better so much that you volunteer hours of your time for years to just make a little progress.
What advice would you give to another young person interested in getting involved in local politics in NH?
Don’t worry about what’s cool. We aren’t in high school anymore, no one will make fun of you for volunteering for your town government, If you care about any issue from parking rates to climate change, you should get involved and make your voice heard. My other piece of advice is to be empowered, don’t be embarrassed to be the youngest person on a board or the token “millennial.” Your voice is as important as the folks who have lived in town for 60 years and you are the future of your community, so always be respectful, but make sure your voice is heard because your peers are counting on you to represent them.
What advice do you have for citizen advocates?
Like most communities, Durham has a very active group of citizen advocates. My advice is to be fair and be respectful. Folks on local boards and committees are volunteering their time and are often sitting through locally-televised meetings until 10 PM on a Wednesday because they want to hear your voice and ensure they are representing their neighbors well. At the end of the day, even if you don’t agree with a decision that was made, remember you are still a member of the community and we are all in this together.
Finally, just for fun, tell us something about yourself that will surprise people.
Before deciding to move to NH I had never volunteered for anything in my life unless it was a requirement for school. The community in NH and the Seacoast specifically is one that welcomes and promotes citizen involvement, whether that’s through a nonprofit or local government. It’s never too late to get involved, so get out there and make a difference!